Author Archives: admin

Three Future Demolitions and Re-developments

The streets of London always have, and always will change. Buildings can disappear almost overnight and be replaced by a very different structure.

I try and photograph buildings and places before any demolition. This can be a challenge given the rate of change, however for today’s post, there are three places I want to focus on which will probably be very different in the years to come.

The three locations are shown in the following map  (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Three Future Demolitions

The London Studios / London Weekend Television

Look across the river from the Embankment by Temple Underground Station, and this is the view:

London Studios

The tall tower was originally known as Kent House, a 24 story tower block, and the most visible part of the old studio complex which also includes a significant area of land around the base of the tower, including the low rise buildings which can just be seen to the left of the tower, above the tree line.

Kent House, and the low rise buildings were until 2018, ITV’s London Studios, also known as the Southbank Television Studios. It was here that ITV made Good Morning Britain, Loose Women, Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, the Jonathan Ross Show, along with a considerable number of shows for other channels, such as the Graham Norton Show and Have I Got News For You for the BBC. If you have watched ITV prior to 2018, chances are that you would have seen a programme filmed here on the south bank of the river.

The following photo shows the view of Kent House from Waterloo Bridge. The National Theatre is the building to the right.

London Studios

ITV were intending to return to the south bank studios after refurbishment and development, however they made the decision to leave and sell the site, with their programmes such as Good Morning Britain now filmed at the old BBC Television Centre in White City.

The story of Kent House and the associated studio buildings dates back to the early 1970s when there were two independent television stations serving London. Thames Television operated from Monday to Friday, and from Friday evening to six on Monday mornings, London Weekend Television (LWT) would broadcast.

When LWT started broadcasting in 1968, they only had temporary studios in Wembley, and were in urgent need for custom built studios, which was even more important with the transition from black and white to colour TV.

LWT identified a block of land near the National Theatre on the south bank and proceeded to build the new studio complex, including Kent House. These opened in 1972 and became the hub for all LWT production. The benefit of a new build was that they became the most technically advanced colour TV studios in Europe at the time of opening.

The studio complex faces onto the walkway along the south bank of the river. The tower is at the rear of the complex, facing onto the street Upper Ground, with low rise buildings facing onto the river.

ITV Studios

Studio buildings extend to the left of the above photo, with the block in the following photo up against the cafes, restaurants and shops at Gabriel’s Wharf which is further to the left.

ITV Studios

The whole site will soon look very different.

ITV sold the studio complex in 2019, including Kent House, to the Japanese real estate company, Mitsubishi Estate, and plans have now been submitted for redevelopment.

Kent House and the entire studio complex will be demolished, and replaced by a 26 storey office building to the rear (Kent House has 24 floors), two lower rise blocks of 13 and 6 storeys facing on to the river.

What is a surprise is that the majority of the complex will be office space, with a capacity for up to 4,000 workers. Based on what normally happens to sites in such a prime location is conversion to apartment blocks, as is happening around the Shell Centre tower further west along the south bank. Whether the plan continues to be for offices after the work at home impact of the pandemic will be interesting to see.

The proposal also includes plans for some form of open space, the obligatory restaurants and some form of cultural space.

The view from Upper Ground:

Gabriel's Wharf

The cafes, restaurants and shops at Gabriel’s Wharf are to the right of the two telephone boxes. Behind them are the low rise studio buildings.

Plans for the redevelopment of the area are still at an early stage, however Mitsubishi’s partner CO-RE are currently listing a 2026 date for completion of the project.

The following photo shows part of one of the old warehouses / offices at 58 Upper Ground, now part of the studio scenery stores.

Gabriel's Wharf

To the left of 58 Upper Ground is the early 1970s studio complex at the base of Kent House:

Southbank Studios

The mock Tudor building is one of the few survivors from before post war redevelopment of the area.

Gabriel's Wharf

ITV left the site in 2018, however the site still offers temporary office and studio space:

Kent House

To the lower left of the Kent House tower, the studio complex can be seen at the rear. This is the western boundary of the studio complex. In the distance can just be seen the half roof of a covered walkway. This was where the audience attending a show would queue for entry. When I worked on the Southbank, it was common to see a long queue of people here in the late afternoon.

Kent House

As shown in the above photo, there are frequently lorries parked around the base of the tower and studio area when the studios are in use.

The Southbank Conservation Area Statement prepared for Lambeth Council Planning states “The ITV tower is reasonably attractive but the lower buildings are of little architectural interest and the entrance forecourt is almost cluttered with waiting vehicles and delivery lorries”.

Personally, I think that this is a danger when looking at something only from a conservation perspective. The lorries at the base do add clutter to the scene, however they are there only because this is a working studio complex, which has added a diversity of activity and a busyness to Upper Ground.

The loss of a diverse range of activities when areas are transformed to a mix of expensive apartments, offices, hotels and chain restaurants, cafes and take-ways can really destroy an area.

Diversity of activity is essential in keeping a city alive.

The following photo shows the base of the tower and the lower levels of the studio complex. I love the way the tower looks as if it has been slotted over the lower levels, with the legs of the tower reaching down along the sides to the ground.

Kent House

A full view of the Kent House tower from Upper Ground:

Kent House

The next site is still on the south of the river, close to London Bridge Station and Tooley Street is:

Colechurch House

Colechurch House is a late 1960s office block on a relatively narrow strip of land between Tooley Street and Duke Street Hill. The main office building is lifted above ground level, and includes a walkway which provides access to the taxi waiting area for the station and London Bridge Street.

Colechurch House

Colechurch House was designed by architect E G Chandler for the City of London. It was named after Peter de Colechurch who was responsible for the first stone London Bridge, the building of which was started in 1176 and completed in 1209.

The building and the freehold of the land is owned by Bridge House Estates, and on the 14th October, the City of London Corporation as Trustee of Bridge House Estates released a press statement that property owner CIT had purchased a lease of the building, and would be bringing forward proposals for redevelopment.

Colechurch House

CIT’s proposals for the complete redevelopment of the site include replacing Colechurch House with a new office building ranging in height from 12 to 22 storeys, with the lowest height part of the building being at the London Bridge / Borough High Street end of the street. The highest part of the building was originally planned to be 32 storeys, however following a consultation process this has now been reduced to 22.

The new office block will be lifted off the street, with the area at ground level being public open space called the Park, which will be divided into a number of areas – Bridge Gate Square, Old London Bridge Park and St Olaf Square.

View of Colechurch House from the elevated walkway. The entrance to the office block is where the two lights can be seen.

Colechurch House

The planning application was submitted at the end of 2020, a number of issues with the application were raised in a letter dated the 1st March 2021. Consideration of these and a final decision is still to be confirmed, however I expect the demolition and rebuild will go ahead within the next couple of years.

Across the river to Fleet Street now, to find the site of a much larger redevelopment:

Fleet Street and Salisbury Court

This is probably the larger of the three developments covered in this post, and it covers a significant frontage onto Fleet Street and to the rear within a block bounded by Salisbury Court and Whitefriars Street.

The redevelopment is for a new area which has been dubbed the “Justice Quarter” as it will include a number of new buildings that will house functions related to the law.

The following map shows the area to be redeveloped, and the new functions that will be located in the development  (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Justice Quarter

1 – New City of London Law Courts

2 – New headquarter building for the City of London Police

3 – Public space covering an area slightly larger than the current Salisbury Square

4 – New commercial / office space with, you may have guessed, space for restaurants, bars or cafes on the ground floor

The following photos walk through the area, starting from Salisbury Square, which is the green space within rectangle 3 in the above map.

This is the view across the square.

Salisbury Square

The building in the background is Fleetbank House, built between 1970 and 1975, a large building that has a lower section to the right, and also runs down Whitefriars Street, which is behind the building.

The obelisk in the centre of the square is a memorial to Robert Waithman, Lord Mayor of the City between 1823 and 1824. The memorial states that it was erected by his friends and fellow citizens.

To the right of the above photo, is the following brick building, 1 Salisbury Square:

Salisbury Square

The road to the right is Salisbury Court, running up to Fleet Street at the top.

Both Fleetbank House and 1 Salisbury Court have been granted a certificate of immunity by Historic England. This certificate states that the Secretary of State does not intend to list the buildings for a specific period of time – in the case of these buildings, up to July 2025.

If I have understood the proposals correctly, 1 Salisbury Square will be demolished and the area occupied will become part of the larger public space of Salisbury Square.

The following photo is a wider view across the square:

Salisbury Square

I am always amused by developers now and future impressions of proposed developments. If you look halfway down this page on the Salisbury Square Development website, there is a now and future picture where you can scroll between the two.

The now part of the photo was taken on a relatively grey day, with people milling about, or hurrying across the square. The proposed computer generated picture, shows the square at dusk, subtle lighting lights up the trees and the ground floor area of the new public space and there is not a cloud to be seen in the sky. Buildings frequently look their best with this form of lighting.

This type of comparison is all too common with the proposals for any new development.

A row of bollards line Salisbury Square:

Salisbury Square

Walking along Salisbury Court, up to Fleet Street. A relatively narrow street, the edge of 1 Salisbury Court is to the left of the photo:

Salisbury Court

8 Salisbury Court – again if I have understood the proposals correctly, this building will also be demolished, and the land become part of the new public space.

Salisbury Court

To the right of number 8, is a large brick building that covers number 2 to 7 Salisbury Court. This is Greenwood House.

Salisbury Court

The blue plaque states that the first number of the Sunday Times was edited at 4 Salisbury Court by Henry White on October 20th 1822.

The building dates from 1878, and was designed by the architect Alexander Peebles.

Between the ground and first floors, the building has some rather ornate terracotta carvings, and the land or building may have once belonged to the Vintners Company, as their arms with the three tuns can be seen on the wall between first floor windows.

Salisbury Court

2 to 7 Salisbury Court are Grade II listed, however a City of London notice cable tied to the iron railings outside the building state that a number of changes will be made:

i) Part demolition of 2-7 Salisbury Court Grade II listed;

ii) remodelling at roof level;

iii) formation of new facade to south elevation, and part new facade to west elevation;

iv) replacement fenestration;

v) new plant; and

v) associated internal alterations.

The two “v” bullets are directly from the notice, the final should I suspect be a vi.

Always hard to decode exactly what these planning notices mean, but I suspect it will be a new façade to replace the joining wall where number 8 has been demolished. Possible demolition of the internal structure of the building, with the wall facing Salisbury Court retained as a façade. A new roof and changes to the windows.

So some dramatic changes.

The view looking down Salisbury Court from the junction with Fleet Street:

Salisbury Court

On the corner of Salisbury Court and Fleet Street is 80 to 81 Fleet Street. A large corner building that was until recently a Barclays Bank. The building was originally, up to 1930, the home of the Daily Chronicle.

Fleet Street

This corner building will also be demolished, and will form, along with the entire block along Fleet Street as shown in the above photo, the new City of London Law Courts.

The centre block in the following photo is Chronicle House, covering 72-78 Fleet Street. The building dates from 1924 and was designed and built by Hebert, Ellis & Clarke.

Fleet Street

The building takes its name from being home to the newspaper, the News Chronicle. The building has also been granted immunity from listing by Historic England and the Secretary of State.

The following block is on the corner of Fleet Street and Whitefriars Street, and will also be demolished to become part of the Law Courts complex.

Fleet Street

Walking down Whitefriars Street, and the following building is the Hack and Hop pub:

Hack and Hop

The Hack and Hop was originally the Coach and Horses, a pub that dates back to the mid 19th century. The earliest record I can find of the pub is a newspaper mention in the Morning Advertiser on the 25th November 1850, where there was an advert for a regular Monday evening meeting where a penny subscription would be collected for the London Copper-Plate Printers Benevolent Fund – a reminder of the long history of the area with the printing trade.

Hack and Hop

The buildings along this part of Whitefriars Street, including the Hack and Hop pub will be demolished and replaced by the new headquarters building for the City of London Police.

The new building will bring together police functions from a couple of existing buildings which have already been sold – Wood Street and Snow Hill police stations. The new building will have ten floors above ground with space for 1,000 police officers and civilian staff, with three levels below ground for specialist functions and parking.

Continuing on down Whitefriars Street, and we see the other side of Fleetbank House:

Whitefriars Street

Fleetbank House will be demolished and replaced with a new office / commercial building, which is described as having a “lively frontage”. I suspect this means cafes, bars and restaurants.

The view looking up Whitefriars Street, with the grey walls of Fleetbank House.

Whitefriars Street

The end of Fleetbank House in the above photo marks the southern limit of the new re-development of Whietfriars Street. The work to create the so called Justice Quarter will be one of the most significant developments along Fleet Street for a very long time.

The area off Fleet Street has a considerable amount of history which will require a dedicated post. Hanging Sword Alley passes through the space from Whitefriars Street to Salisbury Court. There is a memorial to journalist T.P. O’Connor along Fleet Street. Bradbury and Evans, one of Dickens publishers were located here. The Fleet water conduit was here until the Great Fire in 1666.

The whole block has a long association with the journalism and the publishing industry, which ended in 2009 when the French Press Agency left 72-78 Fleet Street (Chronicle House).

It is hard to avoid getting into a discussion about the good or bad points of any new development, and I have tried to avoid this in the above post, focusing instead on recording what may well disappear in the coming years.

There is much to consider regarding any change. The buildings lost, the new buildings, what the change brings to the overall area, architecture, impact on wider views, jobs, diversity of activity etc. etc.

There is also the issue of what then happens to the buildings where functions will move from. For example, one of the City of London courts that will move into the new Fleet Street building is the City of London Magistrates Court on the corner of Queen Victoria Street and Walbrook, shown in the following two photos:

London Magistrates Court
London Magistrates Court

A building in a very prime location.

Development often leads to further development as functions, businesses etc. shuffle their way around the City.

Three possible future demolitions and re-developments that will have a significant impact on their local area of London.

Further reading on these can be found at:

City of London Salisbury Square Development web site

City of London Consultation briefing for the Salisbury Square development

Save Britain’s Heritage petition to stop the demolition of 72 – 81 Fleet Street

Colechurch House development web site

Article with artist’s impression of new Colechurch House development

Article with artist’s impression of development on south bank replacing Kent House and Studios

alondoninheritance.com

The Star – Belgrave Mews West

This week, I am back to exploring pubs of the 1980s, and unlike the last post on the Narrow Boat in Ladbroke Grove, today’s pub is still open. This is the Star in Belgrave Mews West:

Belgrave Mews West

The same view today:

The Star Belgrave Mews West

Apart from some minor cosmetic changes, and a change of colour for the ground floor of the pub, it has hardly changed in 35 years.

There is one minor difference which tells a wider story of how pubs have changed. Go back to the 1986 photo at the top of the post and look at the ground floor window to the left of the pub, and there is an Xpelair fan installed at the top of the window.

These were so common in pubs (there is one in the centre of the Horse and Groom Pub, Groom Place, Belgravia from a few weeks ago). They were needed as this was long before the smoking ban came into force in 2007, and pubs were mainly for drinking with a much smaller side line in food. I had a part time job in a pub in the early 1980s and I am sure I was on the equivalent of 20 day sometimes, just by breathing the air.

There is also a change at the top of the arch. In 1986 the top was plain, however in 2021 there is a wheatsheaf. The wheatsheaf is the symbol of the Grosvenor Estate, of which the mews are part.

The Star is located at the northern end of Belgrave Mews West, which runs between Chesham Place and Halkin Place, just to the west of Belgrave Square. I have highlighted the location of the mews in the following map (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Belgrave Mews West

The Star was part of the westward expansion of Belgravia in the 1830s / 1840s, with the development of the Grosvenor Estate. The pub has retained its original name, and the first reference I can find to the pub implies that it opened in 1848, as from the Morning Advertiser on the 13th March 1848, in the column detailing the results of licence applications:

“Star, Belgrave-mews West, Belgrave-square – Mr Woolff appeared for Richard William Ledger, a beer-house-keeper, and applied for a licence on the grounds that there were a great many workmen and servants of the nobility and gentry in the neighbourhood, who required that accommodation which only a licensed house could afford, and that there was no public-house nearer than the Turk’s Head which is distant 400 yards from the petitioner’s. There was no objection – Licence granted”.

The Turk’s Head mentioned in the licence application is still a pub, but is now called the Alfred Tennyson, and can be found at 10 Motcombe Street, Belgravia.

The Star looks to be in a purpose built pub building, so I am not sure what came first, the building or the licence application? I assume the building was designed with the sole purpose of being a pub.

The licence application is also interesting as it clearly identifies the target clientele. You would probably not have found any of the wealthy owners of the large houses around Belgrave Square in the Star, however for their servants, and those working in the area, the Star must have been a welcome escape.

The following photo is looking south down Belgrave Mews West. Belgrave Square is to the left and the buildings on the left of the mews back onto the houses in Belgrave Square, which is probably where many of the pubs clientele worked.

Belgrave Mews West

The Star – currently closed, but opening soon.

The Star Belgrave Mews West

The Star seems to have been a place where the rich and famous, as well as many of the major criminals of the time met in the 1950s and 1960s.

It is the place where members of the gang who carried out the Great Train Robbery met to plan the raid.

A description of the pub in the Tatler on the 23rd July 1966 describes the rather colourful landlord at the time:

“The Star, 6 Belgrave Mews West. Pat Kennedy’s voice sounds like gravel-chips being steamrollered. It is heard at full blast any time of day or night, as he holds court in the upstairs bar. Paddy’s, as the pub is known, has seen it all. Name a personality, and he or she has been there. Nuff said”.

Those reported as frequenting the Star included actors Albert Finney, Diana Dors and Peter O’Toole, A couple of months after the above report, in a section on London’s best bars, the Tatler described the Star as “it attracts fanatical partisans of darts and pin-tables, and creates an illusion of spies and illicit rendezvous”.

The pub sign features a view of the pub to the side, looking through the arched entrance to the mews, where a coach and horses are waiting.

The Star Belgrave Mews West

Looking through the arch with the Star to the left:

The Star Belgrave Mews West

Walking further down the mews and this is the view looking up, with the pub at the far left:

Belgrave Mews West

The majority of the buildings that line Belgrave Mews West are the type of buildings you would expect to find in such as place. Two storey buildings, many with large entrances on the ground floor which would have once been the stables for the large houses in Belgrave Square. The rear of these buildings face onto a small open space between them and the larger houses on Belgrave Square, allowing easy access when a servant needed to get the horse and carriage round to the front door in Belgrave Square.

The difference with Belgrave Mews West is that towards the southern end of the mews there are two embassy buildings.

The Austrian Embassy has a very impressive frontage onto Belgrave Square, however to the southern end of the mews, on the left, we can see the Austrian flag above the very plain rear of the embassy.

Belgrave Mews West

At the far end of the mews, between the arch that mirrors the arch by the Star is the German Embassy which occupies a large area of land between Belgrave Mews West and Chesham Place.

Belgrave Mews West

View through the southern arch of Belgrave Mews West:

Belgrave Mews West

The LCC Bomb Damage Maps show that the buildings in the space occupied by the Austrian Embassy in Belgrave Mews West suffered severe damage, and the houses that were along Chesham Place and the mews were damaged beyond repair, so bomb damage probably explains why the original early 19th century buildings have been replaced by more the more recent embassy buildings.

The following photo shows the entrance to Belgrave Mews West from Chesham Place, which passes underneath the German Embassy. I was surprised that it was so easy to walk around the embassy and take photos, however there were plenty of CCTV cameras around.

Belgrave Mews West

Belgravia has been a preferred location for embassies since the area was first built. In “Knightsbridge and Belgravia” E. Beresford Chancellor (1909) writes about Chesham Place, including that the “Russian Embassy has been located here since 1852”.

The Star is one of those wonderful pubs that make wandering the side streets so very enjoyable, even more so when the pub reopens on the 17th May. Brilliant to see that the Star is still to be found, and another pub added to the list to revisit when open.

alondoninheritance.com

Lost Bankside Alleys

I have no idea of the exact location of the following photo. It is one of my father’s and dates from 1949. Judging by the photos on the strips of negatives that included this photo, it is probably one of a number of Bankside alleys, although there is a chance it is a bit further east.

The photo shows a police officer walking through an alley, probably between warehouses. At the end of the alley, there is one of the typical walkways that were built to connect warehouses on opposite sides of a street.

I love the photo as it captures what must have been a relatively common event – a lone police officer patrolling his beat.

Policing has changed considerably in the 72 years since the photo. Budget cuts have reduced police numbers, streets now have CCTV and there is the ongoing threat of terrorism.

Along Bankside, there are no warehouses full of goods that would tempt a thieve. The river is quiet and is no longer teeming with barges and lighters, although as the tragic events on London Bridge just a week ago demonstrate, the Thames is still a very dangerous place for anyone who enters the water.

The police officer in the photo was probably on his “beat” – a set route around a district that an officer would patrol. They would get to know the streets, the people, activity that was normal, and what was not normal.

Being assigned to a beat was the first step in a police officer’s career after training and being posted to a station as a Police Constable.

In the book “Fabian of the Yard” (1950) by Superintendent Robert Fabian, he provides an introduction to the activity of “being on a beat”:

“On the beat, an officer should normally walk the regulation 2.5 m.p.h. – if he is hurrying he is probably after someone or more likely going home to his supper. Properly carried out, patrol duty is not half so dull as you might imagine. The most ordinary looking street can to the practiced eye be of absorbing interest. Each doorway, shadow at a window, hurried footstep or meaningful glance may have a tale to tell”.

(Fabian of the Yard is a fascinating account of London policing and crime between the 1920s and 1940s)

Crime was frequently reported after the event, however the benefit of being on the beat, was that anything unusual, and a possible crime, could be investigated as it happened. Detailed newspaper reporting of such events tended to reduce in the 20th century, however in the 19th century, papers were full of long accounts of crimes, often including the conversations that had taken place during an inquest, or the words of the police officers involved.

The following three extracts are examples of the type of action that a police officer on the beat would frequently get involved with, when patrolling along the river’s edge.

From the Shipping and Mercantile Gazzete on Thursday the 8th February, 1877:

“THEFT FROM A BARGE – At the Southwark Police-court, Joseph Sadler, 22, a returned convict, was charged with being concerned with two others in stealing three pieces of oak timber from a barge on the River Thames, the property of Messrs. Shuter and Co., coopers and stave merchants, Shad Thames.

George Barnett, police-sergeant 56M, said that between 10 and 11 on the previous night he was on duty in Bermondsey-wall when he saw the prisoner and two others coming from Eaton’s Wharf. They were each carrying a piece of timber and as soon as they saw him they dropped the timber and ran away. He, however, captured the prisoner, but his companions escaped. He made inquiries, and found that the timber had been stolen from a barge lying off Bermondsey-wall. Mr. William Joseph Littell, of the firm Shuter and Co., identified the three pieces of oak timber as the property of the firm. Mr. Partridge committed the prisoner for trial”.

From the St. James Chronicle, August 1855:

“SOUTHWARK. CHARGE OF BURGLARY – John Richard South, a tall young man, partially dressed in military attire, and who stated himself to belong to the Royal Artillery, was charged with being concerned with another, not in custody, with breaking in to the Watermen’s Arms public-house, Bankside.

Joseph Alley, police-constable, 30M, said he was on duty shortly before three o’clock that morning in Bankside, and when passing the Waterman’s Arms he heard something breaking inside, which induced him to stop.

Another constable then came up, when they again heard the breaking noise, and saw the reflection of a light inside. Witness immediately directed the other constable to go to the rear of the house, while he knocked on the door for admittance and rang the bell. While doing so he heard a rushing noise inside, and a minute or two afterwards, the landlord came down and opened the street door. Witness entered and passed through, when he saw two men climbing up a shed. He got up after them, and saw the prisoner concealed behind a chimney, and as he came near him he exclaimed ‘It’s all right, I’ll give myself up’. He took the prisoner into custody, but his companion made his escape”.

From the Morning Post, 2nd July 1833:

“Yesterday two men, named Morrett and Yates, were brought before Mr. Murray, charged on suspicion of drowning a young woman (name unknown), whose body was taken out of the water at Bankside.

A police sergeant of the M division on proceeding over Blackfriars Bridge on Sunday morning, about four o’clock, saw some persons looking through the balustrades, and heard them exclaim ‘That a woman was in the water’. He looked in the direction of Southwark bridge, and perceiving a splashing in the water at some distance off, he ran round to Bankside, and by the time he arrived saw the body of a young female just brought on shore by a waterman.

He observed two men standing upon a barge moored at some distance out in the river, and he had been informed that these two men were with this female at the time she was drowned. Acting upon this intelligence he procured a wherry, and immediately went on board the barge, and took them both into custody.

The accused were examined separately, and Yates made the following statement voluntarily;- he said that he and the other prisoner were brass founders, and worked at a large factory in St Martin’s-lane. On Saturday night after work, they went to the Cart and Horses in Upper St Martin’s-lane which they left at half past eleven o’clock, and then went home together, but did not retire to rest.

At three o’clock in the morning they left home together with the determination of taking an excursion on the water. On their way to Westminster bridge they met a young female near the Horse Guards, and they spoke to her, and told her they were going to have a pull down the river. She expressed her desire to accompany them; they endeavoured to dissuade her, but when they hired the boat, which was at Mr Lyons, near the bridge, she said she was determined to go with them, and accordingly jumped into the boat along with them.

They then proceeded down the rive, the tide running that way, and in the course of their progress, run against a chain or warp to which a barge was made fast. This was about midway between the two bridges, and in an attempt to extricate it the wherry heeled over and the female rolled into the river. One of them (Yates) got hold of the barge and saved himself, and rescued Morrett, who was on the point of being drowned, and would inevitably have shared the fate of the female had not Yates grasped him by the collar and pulled him on board the barge.

in reply to the Magistrate the accused said he never saw the deceased before; that she appeared to be 18 years of age, and that they were unacquainted with who or what she was. She was dressed in a dark half-mourning dress, and wore a straw bonnet with ribands. The other prisoner gave a similar account of the transaction, and they were ordered to be detained in custody, as there were some mysterious circumstances attending the case”.

The following day an inquest was held and a verdict of accidental death was returned. Much of the critiscm at the inquest seems to have fallen on two other parties, not the two men found on the barge.

When the young woman’s body was first found, “two medical men” had been called, but had refused to attend. One of their assistants only arrived an hour later.

The proprietor of the boat was criticised for “letting out a wherry at that hour in the morning without some experienced person to attend to it; and that it was in consequence of this neglect that many casualties occurred in the river”. A deodand of £5 was levied on the boat. A deodand was a forfeit on an object where it has caused, or been involved with, a person’s death.

A scene that a police officer on the beat may have been interested in is shown in the following photo from the same strip of negatives, so around the same bankside area.

A quiet alley and some activity around a car in the distance.

Again, I cannot identify the location of the alley, there are no features that enable identification, and the area has changed so much in the last 72 years that as far as I can tell, the alley has long disappeared.

A glance at the 1896 edition of the Ordnance Survey map shows the number of alleys that were once along Bankside (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

In the above extract, Tate Modern now occupies the area on the left, and Southwark Bridge is on the right.

From left to right there is: Pike Gardens, leading to White Hind Alley, Moss Alley and Rose Alley, along with narrow streets leading up to the Thames such as Pond Yard and Bear Gardens.

These alleys have now dissapeard when you walk along the Thames, however there are traces further in land, such as Rose Alley, which is now a short stretch of narrow street acting as a service road to the building that now blocks the end of the old alley to the Thames.

There is one alley part remaining, although this is not named on the above map.

Underneath the letter I of the word Bankside (running along the street on the Thames embankment), there is a narrow alley with no name. This is Cardinal Cap Alley, with the entrance being found between two buildings just to the west of the Globe Theatre.

I wrote a post about Cardinal Cap Alley and No. 49 Bankside back in 2015 as the alley and number 49 have a fascinating history.

The alley has been controversially gated off for some years, however looking through the bars of the gate we can see the remains of an old Bankside alley.

Cardinal Cap Alley was open in the 1970s, and the view across to St Paul’s was one of my early photographic attempts, with my first camera, a Kodak Instamatic 126 (although the camera did not handle contrast that well, so St Paul’s is only just visible across the river).

I have no idea whether the police officer in my father’s 1949 photo was walking the regulation 2.5 mph, or as Fabian of the Yard also suggested that he may be hurrying home for his supper.

The policing of the river and the land along the river’s edge has changed considerably in the 72 years since the photo was taken, and the majority of Bankside alleys have been replaced with new buildings facing onto the Thames. Both Bankside and the river are today a very different place.

alondoninheritance.com

Portsmouth from Portsdown Hill – 1949 and 2021

Regular readers will know that as well as London, my father also took very many photos whilst cycling around the country during the late 1940s and early 1950s. For a mid-week post, I am visiting the location of one of those photos, which tells an interesting story of how land has been reclaimed, and the uses to which we have put that land. This is the view of Portsmouth from Portsdown Hill in 1949:

Portsdown Hill

The same view in 2021:

Portsdown Hill

There are a couple of details that confirm that this is the same view. Both photos have the electricity cables on the right disappearing over the edge of the hill, and in the distance the profile of the Isle of Wight is the same.

The location is important for the rest of the post. The following map is a wider view of the area. The Isle of Wight is lower left, the water is the Solent, the channel leading up to the top left corner is Southampton Water. Portsmouth is the block of land with water on both sides, in the centre of the map  (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Portsdown Hill

The following map is an extract from the above map, with the red circle marking the location from where both photos were taken  (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Portsdown Hill

Portsmouth can be considered as an island as it is surrounded by water on all sides. Portsmouth Harbour to the west, Langstone Harbour to the east, the Solent to the south, and around the north of the island there is a narrow channel of water.

It is not very clear from the above map, but the place from where both photos where taken is on a hill. Portsmouth is generally flat and low lying with a maximum height of 6 metres. Directly behind Portsmouth is a chalk hill, known as Portsdown Hill, running east to west. The height at the location of the photo is 101 metres, so considerably higher than Portsmouth as illustrated in the photos.

Portsdown Hill is part of the geologic feature called the Portsdown Anticline.

An anticline forms when the ground has been compressed from two sides, and the compression causes the land to rise and fall. An anticline is the part where the land has risen and a syncline is where the land falls. The following diagram illustrates the concept of an anticline and syncline.

Portsdown Hill

The sides of an anticline sometimes erode over time, and also become exposed due to human activities, which has happened to the chalk of the Portsdown anticline, which I will show later in the post.

The anticline / syncline model explains much about the landscape of this part of southern England, with the hills on the Isle of Wight in the photo being part of the Sandown anticline, the ripples of anticlines and synclines forming the landscape up to Petersfield and Winchester, and further north, the Hog’s Back in Surrey, before flattening out to form the London Basin.

Human activity is often very visible with the construction of roads, housing, factories and warehouses, and in the two photos from Portsdown Hill we can see the impact of another form of human activity which has had a considerable impact on the waters of Portsmouth Habour since my father’s 1949 photo.

In the 1949 there is a large area of water in the foreground. In the 2021 photo this has disappeared. The following map extract shows the area in 1962. Again, the red circle indicates where the photos were taken from.

There is a large island (Horsea Island) in the north east part of Portsmouth Harbour (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

Portsdown Hill

In the 1970s the area of land between Horsea Island and the mainland was reclaimed. The following map shows the reclaimed area.

Portsdown Hill

Comparing the above map, with the map of the area in 2021 earlier in the post will show that the reclaimed area has been used for the M27 motorway, the M275 into Portsmouth, construction of Port Solent marina, along with housing, shopping, entertainment and buildings for marine businesses.

One large part of the reclaimed land was used as a landfill area for household waste. The area destined for landfill is shown in the above map highlighted in blue.

Even though the decision was made in the 1970s, it is still surprising that such a marine environment would be used for landfill. A number of old landfill sites on the coast are already, or at risk of erosion. This is already happening at an old landfill site on the Thames at East Tilbury.

The Portsmouth landfill site closed in 2006, and the site has now been grassed over, although vents can be seen protruding from the ground to vent the gasses from the decaying materials below.

I have marked up my father’s 1949 photo with some of the key features, including the area that would become landfill.

Portsdown Hill

The masts are part of a navy wireless station that occupied much of Horsea island. The island also had a torpedo testing range, which can still be seen as the long channel of water in the 2021 map earlier in the post.

The torpedo testing range was the result of earlier human intervention. Horsea Island was originally two islands – Great and Little Horsea. The admiralty purchased the islands in 1885, and they were merged into a single island using chalk excavated from Portsdown Hill. The enlarged island provided the space for the torpedo testing range which was eventually extended to a length of 1,000 yards.

The following photo from the same location shows the old landfill site as the large grass mound in the centre of the photo.

Portsdown Hill

The Isle of Wight can be seen across the Solent and there is a tower rising to the right of the taller buildings of central Portsmouth.

This tower is the Spinnaker Tower located on the Portsmouth Harbour waterfront at Gunwharf Quays.

Spinnaker Tower Gunwharf Quays

Gunwharf Quays is now a retail and entertainment complex, built on the site of HMS Vernon, an old part of Portsmouth’s naval base, and an area focusing on mine warfare and the development of torpedoes which provides a link with Horsea Island. HMS Vernon was decommissioned in 1986.

Construction of Gunwharf Quays started in 1998. It was a complex engineering and construction process as much of the new site would be built over tidal mudflats and one of the largest marine decks in Europe was built to support much of the new building.

Construction of the Spinnaker Tower started in late 2001, based on a design chosen from three designs put to a vote by the residents of Portsmouth. The design is intended to emulate the billowing out of a spinnaker sail to reflect Portsmouth’s marine heritage.

At the top of the Spinnaker Tower is a viewing gallery, which I visited a number of years ago. The height of the tower provides a spectacular view over the surrounding area. In the following photo, the view is back towards Portsdown Hill and I have marked the site of the 1949 photo with a red arrow.

Portsmouth Harbour

The white of the exposed chalk can be seen just to the right of the arrow, with a much larger area to the left. This is the underlying chalk of Portsdown Hill which has been exposed by both weathering and erosion over time, as well as human quarrying.

The Portsmouth naval base as well as the historic dockyard occupy much of the foreground of the photo.

The large ship nearest to the camera is HMS Warrior. Built in 1860, HMS Warrior was powered by both steam and sail, and was Britain’s first iron hulled, armoured naval warship. The most technologically advanced ship of her time.

Follow up from the funnels of HMS Warrior and HMS Victory can also be seen. The Historic Dockyard is also home to the Mary Rose, the flagship of King Henry VIII, which sank in the Solent in 1545, and raised from the seabed in 1982.

Looking in the opposite direction, the Spinnaker Tower provideds a superb view over the Solent and the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour.

Portsmouth Harbour

In the above photo, the area to the left of the harbour entrance is called Portsmouth Point, also known as Spice Island.

Today, there are a couple of brilliant pubs facing onto the harbour entrance, however in the past, Portsmouth Point / Spice Island had a reputation for drunkness, prostitution and crime, with press gangs roaming the streets.

Thomas Rowlandson produced the following satirical print of Portsmouth Point in 1814.

The view is looking out towards Portsmouth Harbour where numerous ships are moored or with their sails up. General confusion and chaos reigns on the Point with sailors just returned or about to leave (a sailor is saying goodbye to his family in the doorway on the right, whilst in the window above an officer is looking towards the harbour with his telescope).

The power station chimney seen in the 1949 photo was just to the left of the above photo, the area is now covered with housing.

Portsmouth harbour opens out into the Solent, the water that runs around the north of the Isle of Wight.

Although the Isle of Wight is now an island, this was not always the case. The Solent was once part of a large river system that drained part of southern England, including Portsmouth, Langstone and Chichester Harbours, along with Southampton Water.

The west of the Isle of Wight was connected to Dorset during the time of the Solent river system, however the land was breached around 7,000 years ago as sea levels rose following the end of the last glacial period and melting of large sheets of ice.

There is so much history to be discovered around Portsmouth. In the above photo, there are some round objects visible in the sea to the left of the photo. These are what have become known as Palmerston Forts, or Palmerston Follies:

Palmerston Forts

These were built between 1865 and 1880 following a Royal Commision that raised concerns regarding the risk of a French invasion. They were intended to defend Portsmouth from an attack from the east.

They were named after Lord Palmerston who was Prime Minister at the time, and who championed the idea of the forts. They became known as Palmerston Follies as they were never used as a French invasion never materialised, and they quickly became outdated following advances in weapons technology.

Three additional land based forts were also built along Portsdown Hill which can still be seen when travelling along the road that runs along the top of the hill.

The following print from 1823 shows a view from Portsdown Hill, further to the west of my father’s 1949 photo (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

Portsdown Hill

There is a tower like structure in the centre of the print, which can also be seen to the right of the 1949 photo. The tower is the Norman keep of Portchester Castle at the northern end of Portsmouth Harbour.

Portchester Castle was originally a Roman fort, built in the 3rd century as one of a number of shore forts to defend the area against Saxon raids.

The old Roman fort seems to have been occupied from the ending of the Roman period to the Norman conquest, when the site became a Norman castle, with a 12th century keep. The castle continued to be in use and further fortified due to its strategic position, and what seems to have been an almost continuous threat of invasion by the French.

Charles I sold the castle to a local landowner in 1632, and for periods during the next two centuries, the castle was rented to the Government as a prison to hold prisoners of war, including during the Napoleonic wars of 1793 to 1815, when the castle was home to thousands of prisoners.

Portchester Castle is still owned by descendants of the landowner who purchased the castle from Charles I, and is now managed by English Heritage.

Portchester Castle from the air, facing onto Portsmouth Harbour:

Portchester Castle

Some of the prisoners left their mark with graffiti on the castle stone:

Portchester Castle

The view from Portsdown Hill has changed considerably since 1949, however the view still includes a fascinating sweep of historical and geological time, and there is far more to be discovered than I have been able to cover in a single post. The view tells the story of how the land developed, and what we have done with that land.

The 1949 photo was taken by my father on one of his cycling trips out of London, Youth Hostelling with friends from National Service. Other locations I have so far covered on this route along the south of England include:

Chichester Market Cross And The First Fatal Railway Accident

Salisbury – Poultry Cross, High Street Gate And Cathedral and,

Winchester and Stonehenge

alondoninheritance.com

Three Hundred Years of Hay’s Wharf

Seventy years ago, this coming Friday, at 5.30 p.m. on the 30th April 1951, Mr. L. Elliott Esq. arrived at No. 1, London Bridge to celebrate three hundred years of Hay’s Wharf. The Lord Mayor would also be attending and there were cocktails and music.

Hay's Wharf

The invitation card pictured above opened out to reveal pictures from 1651 and 1951. The following picture shows Hay’s Wharf (with London Bridge on the right) in 1651:

Hay's Wharf

The second photo shows the wharfs occupied by the Hay’s Wharf company in 1951, running from London Bridge at top right, along the left side of the river down to Tower Bridge.

Hay's Wharf

The edge of the river in 1951 appears to be a hive of activity with numerous barges, lighters and ships moored alongside the wharfs, and working in the river.

This was the Hay’s Wharf that the event on the 20th April 1951 was intended to celebrate.

Hay’s Wharf has a rather complicated history, with different owners of land, building and rebuilding of wharfs and warehouses, the Hay’s family, partners in the business and how Hay’s took over most of the river frontage between London and Tower Bridges.

Today’s post is an attempt to provide an overview of the 300 years of Hay’s Wharf and the Hay’s Wharf company.

The year 1651 as the founding of Hay’s Wharf seems to be year when Alexander Hay took over the lease of a brew-house from Robert Houghton, on the site of the current Hay’s Wharf buildings, alongside a small inlet from the river.

Running a brew-house may have meant that Hay realised the importance of clean water supplies. Water was being delivered to London by companies such as the New River Company, and by the London Bridge Waterworks, and these companies needed pipes through which to distribute their water.

Before a method of joining iron pipes was developed in 1785, water pipes were made from hollowed out tree trunks, and Hay set up a business to bore tree trunks and supply wooden pipes to companies such as the New River Company.

This was carried out at the small inlet at Hay’s Wharf, with buildings alongside constructed for the operation of the business.

Pipe boring must have been of such a scale that the Bridge House records, record Pipe Borers Wharf as the official name for Hay’s Wharf

There is one curious story of Hay’s Wharf during the early years of the 18th century. In 1709, the overall lease for the wharfs and properties close to London Bridge were taken over by Charles Cox who had been the MP for Southwark since 1695. It was from Charles Cox that Hay had an individual lease of the properties that formed Hay’s Wharf.

In 1697 the Treaty of Ryswick resulted in the persecution of Lutheran Protestants in parts of what is now Germany. Many of these fled to England as refugees and were granted an allowance of one shilling a day. Following early arrivals from Germany, numbers soon increased as news of the welcome they received in England spread. Numbers became such that there was a public outcry against the number arriving and the grant of a shilling a day. As a result, this grant was soon stopped.

Charles Cox announced that he would give asylum to all who arrived and would cover the cost. His approach to housing new arrivals was to crowd them into buildings at Hay’s Wharf and nearby Bridge House. Conditions grew very insanitary, and the local population were angered by the number of arrivals, and their living conditions so close to the existing residents.

Despite Charles Cox stating that he would fund the costs, the local Poor Rate had to be increased to £700.

Hundreds continued to arrive from Germany, and in desperation Charles Cox sent many to Southern Ireland, where they were not welcomed, and had to return to London.

Eventually, arrangements were made to ship the refugees to America, where they were settled in Carolina. It is interesting to wonder how many of those living in America today are descendants of those who travelled to America via the buildings at Hay’s Wharf and Bridge House.

Warehousing as a major business started from 1714 when the Customs Authorities allowed goods such as tobacco to be stored in warehouses on payment of a small percentage of the import duty.

If the product was then exported, the import duty would be repaid, allowing imported goods meant for export to be stored in warehouses tax free. Previous warehouses had been for the temporary storage of goods and the convenience of merchants, however tax free import followed by export significantly grew warehousing as a business.

By 1789, Hay’s Wharf was just one of a number of sufferance wharfs along the south bank of the river. A sufferance wharf is one where goods can be stored until any tax or duty is paid.

The following map shows the sufferance wharfs lining the south bank of the river in 1789.

Hay's Wharf

Hay’s Wharf was just one of a number that lined the river. From lower left are Chamberlain’s Wharf, Cotton’s Wharf, Hay’s Wharf, Beal’s Wharf, Griffin’s Wharf, Symon’s Wharf, Stanton’s Wharf, Davis Butt & Co Wharf, Hartley’s Wharf, Pearson’s Wharf and Holland’s Wharf.

Hay’s Wharf was used as a place where ships would dock and receive goods and passengers for transport across the country, and abroad. A Hay’s Wharf sailing bill from 1798 provides an indication of how this trade was carried out.

Hay's Wharf

The “Sally” would be sailing from Hay’s Wharf to Plymouth and Plymouth Dock, and the ship would be available for twelve working days at Hay’s Wharf to take goods for transport to Plymouth, from where they could then be forwarded to a range of locations in the West Country. As well as taking goods, the Sally would also carry passengers for Plymouth.

Throughout the 18th century, the Hay’s Wharf business had passed through the Hay’s family. Francis Theodore Hay would be the last of the family connected with the business.

Francis had been apprenticed as a Waterman before taking over the business. He would become Master of the Waterman’s Company and King’s Waterman to George III and George IV.

In the early 19th century, Hay’s business was seeing considerable competition. In earlier years the Customs Authority had granted sufferance, or the right to store goods without paying tax, to a limited number of wharf owners, however they now granted sufferance to any owner of land with a frontage on the river. Competition was also coming from the new docks which were being built east of the Tower of London.

Possibly because of this competition, Francis set up his son in a lighter building business, with a property on the river in Rotherhithe. Lighters were smaller, flat bottomed barges which allowed goods to be transferred from a ship, right up to the wharfs lining the river.

Francis Theodore Hay died in 1838, and was the last of the Hay’s connected with the wharf business. His son carried on running the lighter building business.

Francis Theodore Hay:

Hay's Wharf

Francis Hay’s interest in the business seems to have been mainly financial, and Alderman John Humphrey (who already had a long association with Hay’s), now became the owner of the business. He would bring in two partners who were influential in the future success of Hay’s Wharf.

Hugh Colin Smith was a member of a family long connected with the City’s banking and commercial world. Arthur Magniac’s family was part of the Jardine, Matheson Company, one of the oldest Merchant Adventurers in China, and it was through Magniac that the tea trade was brought to Hay’s Wharf, with tea clippers from China bringing a high percentage of the tea consumed in London to Hay’s.

The trade with China was so successful that Jardine, Matheson referred to Hay’s Wharf as “our wharf in London”.

Humphrey, Smith and Magniac entered a fomal partnership in 1861 known as the “Proprietors of Hay’s Wharf”, although Humphrey would only live for another 18 months, however his sons took over their father’s interest in the partnership and Hay’s Wharf entered a period of considerable expansion and progress.

For the rest of the 19th century, and the early 20th century, Hay’s Wharf introduced mechanisation, purchased land and wharfs along the river between London and Tower Bridges, invested in new buildings and technologies such as a Cold Store. They also purchased the Pickford’s transport business.

It was during the early part of the 20th century that the Hay’s Wharf business was at the peak of its expansion and success.

The following painting by Gordon Ellis shows the tea clipper Flying Spur about to enter the dock at Hay’s Wharf on the 29th of September 1862. The ship is bringing the new season’s tea back from Foochow, China.

Hay's Wharf

The site of the original Hay’s Wharf is now the Hay’s Galleria. Seen from across the Thames, two old warehouse buildings surround an open space covered by a glass and metal frame.

Hay's Wharf

The central open space was once fully occupied by water, the remains of an old inlet from the river that had been turned into a dock so that ships could moor adjacent to the buildings that would store their cargo.

I cannot confirm the exact date of the current buildings. There are references to construction in 1856, however the 1861 fire, named in the press as the “Great Fire in Tooley Street” caused considerable damage to these buildings. The Morning Post of the 24th June 1861 describes the fire catching in the roof of Hay’s Wharf, tall columns of flame, the top floor blazing and the fire descending to the floor below, with the rest of the floors following.

The article described that this was supposed to be a fire proof building, and although it appears to have been considerably damaged by the fire, the fire did take longer to move from floor to floor than in the other warehouses.

Hay’s Wharf was repaired / rebuilt soon after, suffered bomb damage in the last war, and considerable restoration and modification at the end of the 20th century, which included the infill of the old central dock.

The following photo is looking along the interior of Hay’s Wharf, out towards the River Thames.

Hay's Wharf

The following photo shows the interior when it was in use as a dock, with water running up to a narrow walkway alongside the building on either side (the walkway was a later addition to the warehouse buildings. When first built the dock ran directly up to the side of the building and to get between the different arches you would have had to walk through the interior).

Hay's Wharf

The photo dates from 1921 and the ship in the photo is the Quest, the ship that the explorer Earnest Shackleton used for his final expedition to the Antarctic. Shackleton would suffer a fatal heart attack on the 5th of January 1922 whilst at South Georgia, where he would be buried.

The view back along the old dock from the river end of Hay’s Wharf:

Hay's Wharf

The old entrance to the river can still be seen with the indent on the river wall and walkway:

Hay's Wharf

In the late 1920s, the Hay’s Wharf Company decided to build a new head office. This would occupy the site of St Olave’s Church, between Tooley Street and the Thames.

To continue a link with the 11th century saint after who the church was dedicated, the new head office would be called St Olaf House. The photo below shows the view of the building from Tooley Street:

St Olaf House

St Olave’s church just survived the disastrous fire at Tooley Street in 1843. It was rebuilt the following year, however over the coming decades the size of the congregation declined, and in 1908 is was recorded that at one of the rare services at the church there were only five in the congregation.

The body of the church was eventually demolished with only the tower and graveyard remaining. In 1928, Bermondsey Borough Council proposed selling the church to the Hay’s Wharf Company in order to save public money. A bill was presented in Parliament to enable the sale, which requested permission:

“to sell to Hay’s Wharf the site of the Church of St Olave’s and the churchyard, comprising St Olave’s Garden between Tooley Street and the River, together with the right of demolition of the tower and the right to use the ground as a waiting place for vehicles, with loading bays, and to erect buildings upon it.

The sale of the churchyard and the tower (a local landmark) was a contentious issue, but finally went ahead. The flagstaff from the tower was given to St George’s Church, Borough High Street and three bells from the tower were given to the Church of St Olave which was then being built in Mitcham.

The octagonal Portland stone turret, formerly capping the tower of the church was moved to the Tanner Street, Bermondsey park and children’s playground to form a drinking fountain. The playground was funded with some of the proceeds from the sale of the land.

The new head office was designed by H.S. Goodhart-Rendel and opened in 1931.

The Tooley Street entrance to the building is recessed under the building, with parking space and vehicle access between the entrance and Tooley Street.

The main entrance has the arms of the Smith, Humphrey and Magniac families above the door, along with the opening date of 1931. These three families were the partners in the company, and responsible for the considerable development and expansion of the company after 1862.

St Olaf House

A black and gold mosaic of St Olave on the corner of the building:

St Olaf House

On another corner of the building is recorded that it occupies the site of the church and the legend of St Olave:

St Olaf House

Along with an award for the offices from the British Council:

St Olaf House

View of the new Head Office from London Bridge:

St Olaf house

The same view from London Bridge in 1951:

St Olaf house

The focal point of the river facing side of the building is a large set of reliefs framing six of the windows:

St Olaf House

The reliefs were the work of the sculptor Frank Dobson and completed using gilded faience (second time in the last few weeks I have come across this material. Faience is glazed pottery, see also post on Ibex House in the Minories).

The three large panels at the top represent Capital, Labour and Commerce, and the 36 vertical panels represent “The Chain of Distribution”.

Another example of Frank Dobson’s work can be found on the south bank of the river with “London Pride”, designed for the Festival of Britain, now outside the National Theatre.

Another 1951 view from London Bridge showing the head office, and the adjacent wharf (now the London Bridge Hospital). Note the cranes built on a pontoon in the river:

Hay's Wharf

As well as the name of the building, the name of the saint and church continues with the name of the alley from Tooley Street to the river to the west of the building – St Olaf Stairs:

St Olaf Stairs

There are two interesting buildings just to the east of St Olaf House on Tooley Street. The photo below shows Emblem House, now part of London Bridge Hospital.

Bennet Steamship Company

Emblem House was built in 1903 to a design by Charles Stanley Peach. Originally called Colonial House, the building was part of the change from wharfs and warehouses to commercial buildings along this stretch of Tooley Street.

In the photo above, there is a thin, brick built building to the left of Emblem House. This is Denmark House.

Built in 1908 to a design by S.D. Adshead, for the Bennet Steamship Company.

On the side of the building facing St Olaf House, at the very top of the building, there is a stone model of a steamship, with what looks like a funnel, two lifeboats and cranes at front and rear – possibly one of Bennet’s steamships.

Bennet Steamship Company

After the war, some of the wharfs and warehouses lining the Thames between London and Tower Bridges were empty. Wartime damage and the transfer of trade to the docks east of the river had an impact, however there were still ships being loaded and unloaded at the wharfs owned by Hay’s Wharf. My father took the following photo in 1947 from in front of the Tower of London, looking across to the warehouses on the south bank of the river:

Hay's Wharf

A ship is heading towards Tower Bridge, and a second ship is moored up against one of the warehouses, and cranes line the southern bank of the river.

This would not last for too much longer, and from the 1950s the business continued to decline.

By 1970, the Hay’s Wharf company was seen more as an owner of valuable property than a business running wharfs and warehouses. Following the release of the financial results for the company in 1970, newspaper reports commented that the results were “the London group owning 25 acres of prime Thames dockland, is almost as interesting as the takeover rumours surrounding the company”.

The Hay’s Wharf Company had announced a profit of £1.2 million, which “do not take into account the terminal costs on the closure of the Tooley Street wharves and expenditure on properties awaiting development”. The wharf and warehouse business had effectively closed by 1970.

There were various schemes proposed for redevelopment of the area between Tooley Street and the river during the 1970s and early 1980s. A 1981 scheme for a massive office development was the subject of a public enquiry, and in 1983 the Government gave approval for a scheme proposed by the London Docklands Development Corporation, which included a number of new office blocks, along with retention of a couple of the old warehouses, including Hay’s Wharf.

Hay’s Wharf reopened as Hay’s Galleria in 1987, with the old dock filled in.

View from the north bank of the Thames with Hay’s Wharf on the left, running up to London Bridge on the right.

Hay's Wharf

The following photo shows Hay’s Wharf to the right, and the buildings running up to Tower Bridge on the left.

Hay's Wharf

The majority of the above two photos was once part of the Hay’s Wharf Company. Today, the area is known as London Bridge City and is ultimately owned by the Kuwaiti Sovereign Wealth Fund.

I wonder what Mr. L. Elliott would have thought of what the area would become in the next seventy years, as he clutched his invitation and joined the celebrations of three hundred years of Hay’s Wharf.

To research this post, one of the key books I read is a book published to go with the 300 year celebration: “Three Hundred Years on London River – the Hay’s Wharf Story” by Aytoun Ellis. The book is a fascinating account of Hay’s Wharf, the development of this part of the south bank of the river, the families involved, and the commercial and political environment of London during those 300 years.

alondoninheritance.com

Narrow Boat Pub, Ladbroke Grove

Last week, I featured a pub in Belgravia that is still there. For today’s post, I am in Ladbroke Grove to visit the site of a lost pub. This is the Narrow Boat on Ladbroke Grove, adjacent to the bridge over the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal.

This was the Narrow Boat pub in 1986:

Narrow Boat Pub

The pub has disappeared, bridge rebuilt, and the Narrow Boat has been replaced by a block of flats:

Narrow Boat Pub

My father took the 1986 photo, and I have no idea whether including the passing cars in the frame was intentional or accidental. Chauffeur driven cars, and I do not recognise the man sitting in the rear of the car on the right.

If the passing cars were accidently included in the frame, this was the days of film, so taking another when there was a risk of more traffic in the view was often an inefficient use of film. Very different to today when you can take as many digital photos as needed to get the right view.

The Narrow Boat was located on the north east corner of the bridge taking Ladbroke Grove over the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal. I have highlighted the location with the red circle in the following map (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Ladbroke Grove

An area I have not written about before (there are so many still to do). The large area of green space to the left of the pub is Kensal Green Cemetary, which is well worth a visit.

The Narrow Boat was a relatively recent name for the pub. It had originally been called the Victoria. The name changed in 1977 when the Chiswick brewer’s Fuller, Smith and Turner took over the pub. A news report of the change in ownership records that the name change was in keeping with the pub’s proximity to the Portobello Docks, and the narrow boats that carried goods along the canal. The new landlords of the pub were also new to the pub trade. Wally Sharpe had been a London cab-driver for eleven years and Irene Sharpe had been a civil servant.

They had plans to completly refurbish the pub, and for a beer garden and the build of a landing stage on the canal for passing canal traffic.

Judging from the exterior of the pub just nine years later, I am not sure how many of these plans came through to completion. I suspect that Wally and Irene were just ahead of their time, and a pub with gardens facing onto the Grand Union Canal could now be rather profitable, especially as the area is not particularly well served with pubs.

I cannot find the exact date when the pub opened. There are newspaper references to the Victoria pub in the 1890s. In the late 19th century this was on the edges of built London with still many fields to the north and west. Kensal Green Cemetary had opened in 1833, making use of the amount of open space available in the area.

The Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal opened in 1801 to provide a link between Paddington Basin and the main Grand Union Canal which connected with Birmingham and much of the rest of the country’s canal network.

The Victoria may not therefore have been opened much earlier than the 1890s, unless it was built to serve those passing on the canal.

In the late 1970s, the Marylebone Mercury had a regular beer column and on the 14th September 1979, one of the improvements to London pubs was the fitting of hand pumps in Fullers pubs, with fifty so far being upgraded to return to more traditional ways of serving beer. The Narrow Boat was included in the list of pubs in which the author of the column would enjoy a pint.

in the same year, the beer column commented that the Narrow Boat pub had been included in the Campaign for Real Ale’s 1979 edition of the Good Beer Guide.

Earlier mentions of the pub include a report in 1912 into the drowning of an eight year old boy who had been fishing in the canal. Joseph Church, the landlord at the time was one of those trying to rescue the boy and was called as a witness at the inquest.

In 1902, the Kilburn Times reported on the trial of a drinker in the Victoria who was charged with disorderly conduct and assaulting a Police Constable. In a strange turn of events, the drinker was found innocent after evidence presented, including from the pub’s landlord, proved that the Police Constable had intimidated and assaulted the drinker. The Police Constable was reported.

Apart from that, the Victoria / Narrow Boat appears to have passed a reasonably quite life servicing the locals, workers on the canal, and those from the gas works opposite.

The following photo is looking to the west, from the bridge that carries Ladbroke Grove over the canal.

Grand Union Canal

Parts of Kensal Green cemetary can just be seen on the right, and the large building in the distance on the left is a Sainsbury’s store. The area on the left was once occupied by a large gas works.

The view over the opposite side of the Ladbroke Grove bridge, looking towards the east.

Grand Union Canal

There has been, and still is much development in the area. This is St John’s Terrace which originally ran from Harrow Road to the rear of the Narrow Boat. The building that has replaced the pub can be seen at the end of the street.

Ladbroke Grove

On the corner of St John’s Terrace and Harrow Road is the closed premises of the Tyre and Wheel Company, which has been closed for some time, and I assume is waiting for demolition and probably the build of new flats.

Ladbroke Grove

Walking back south along Ladbroke Grove, over the bridge and turning into Kensal Road is the boarded up remains of another pub. This was the late 19th century Western Arms.

Ladbroke Grove

The Western Arms originally had a large single storey ground floor bar running to the right of the three storey block, however this looks to have been recently demolished,

The pub was called the Playhouse during its last years as a pub, finally becoming a cocktail bar / performance venue. The old pub occupies a reasonably large corner plot so could easily suffer the same fate at the Narrow Boat, however as the three storey block has so far been left standing there is some hope that this will be retained, and the building retains a similar function to that performed during its time as a pub.

Ladbroke Grove

A short walk along Kensal Road offers other buildings of interest. This is “The Gramophone Works”:

Ladbroke Grove

The name comes from the building being the home of Saga Records Ltd during the 1960s and 70s.

The site was purchased in 1960 by Marcel Rodd, who purchased Saga Records the following year.

Saga Records was one of the first companies to reduce the cost of records, to try and break up control of the market by the major music companies. The majority of their music publishing appears to have been classical records, however they also included jazz and West End shows in their catalogue. In 1966 on their Saga EROS label they released the soundtrack to West Side Story by the original English cast.

A short distance further along Kensal Road is another closed pub. Again, from the 19th century and with the wonderful original name of “Lads of the Village”.

Ladbroke Grove

The pub features in a number of interesting news reports. The earliest I can find dates from 1864, so I suspect the pub dates from the 1850s, or very early 1860s. The headline in the 1864 article gives an indication of trouble, and the fact that this area was then a very new development:

“Riot at Kensal New Town – Mr Alfred Price, the landlord of the ‘Lads of the Village’ beershop, Kensal New Town, said: Yesterday morning I left my house a little after six o’clock. I closed the house, barricaded and locked the tap-room door which opens into the street. I bolted the bar door, and went out by the front door, which closed with a spring lock.

I returned between six and seven o’clock the same morning, after taking a walk. I found the tap-room door broken open, and all these men there. Shay was behind the bar acting as landlord. I had porter and ale on the engine, and he was drawing from it. I saw eight pots of beer filled and a half-gallon can, also full, on the counter. The others were partaking of the beer, and giving it away as well to parties outside and others inside.

I said ‘How dare you force into my premises and give away my beer’ Shay merely laughed. They continued drawing the beer and drinking it, in spite of me. I saw Foley and Gadstone shortly afterwards, and they partook of the beer. I went for the police at eight o’clock, and returned with a constable. There were about 40 gallons of beer and ale on draught at the time. I find the barrels are drained and the bung of another barrel had been taken out and the contents were wasted”.

Foley was jailed for three months for assaulting a policeman, and the judge ordered a police inspector to investigate further.

The name of the pub was frequently abbreviated to just The Village, however not that long ago changed name to Frames, although it did not last long with the new name, closing in 2016, and no indication of when current work will complete, and what the old pub will eventually become.

Returning back up Kensal Road to the location of the Narrow Boat pub and looking across the bridge is a rather unusual structure:

Ladbroke Grove

This is an old water tower that was originally built in the 1930s to hold 5,000 gallons of water ready to use if parts of the adjacent gas works caught fire.

The water tower was converted for designer Tom Dixon by the architectural practice SUSD Architects. Building work was completed in 2012, with additional floors added to the water tower to provide a kitchen, two reception rooms, two bathrooms and two bedrooms.

There were originally plans to extend accommodation down to ground level, hiding the four concrete legs, however these plans do not seem to have made any further progress since the initial conversion.

Ladbroke Grove

The building is in a strange location. There must be good views over the surrounding area as there is nothing of similiar or greater height to block the view.

Access is via the temporary looking scaffold stairs to the side of the tower.

A walk round to the side of the Sainsbury’s car park provides another view of the tower:

Ladbroke Grove

No idea if anyone is living in the converted water tower at the moment, but it would be a rather interesting place to stay, and look out over the canal, and the streets of Ladbroke Grove, Kensal Green and Kilburn.

All the locations covered in this post are within a five minute walk of the Ladbroke Grove bridge over the Grand Union Canal. In that short distance, there were once three pubs. One, the Narrow Boat has completely disappeared, and the future does not look good for the remaining two empty buildings.

I have many more 1980s London pubs to visit, some remaining, some lost, however I will break these up after two weeks of pubs and return to these again in the coming months – and hopefully when we can go inside.

alondoninheritance.com

Horse and Groom Pub, Groom Place, Belgravia

For this week’s post I am in Belgravia, an area of London I have not covered before, however this is a return visit to check on a pub last photographed in 1985. This is the Horse and Groom in Groom Place, Belgravia.

Horse and Groom

The same pub today, unfortunately closed whilst we are still under Covid restrictions.

Horse and Groom

The Horse and Groom in Groom Place is one of London’s ‘mews’ pubs. Not on a main street, rather tucked away in one of the small side streets that were designed for servicing the large houses on the main streets, for stabling the horses of their residents, providing (when originally built) lower cost housing and for some small industrial purposes.

Chester Street and Chapel Street run from Grosvenor Place to Upper Belgrave Street and Belgrave Square. Groom Place runs between Chester and Chapel Streets. I have highlighted the location in the following map, with a red circle marking the location of the Horse and Groom on the corner of Groom Place (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Belgravia map

The green and blue to the right of the above map are the gardens and lake of Buckingham Palace Gardens.

This area of London is relatively new, having been built during the early decades of the 19th century.

Horwood’s map of 1799 shows some early building along Grosvenor Place, and the first houses in Chapel Street, however the rest is still field (unfortunately this area was on the edge of the page of my copy of Horwood’s map, so only part of the fields are shown).

Horwood's map of Belgravia

Smith’s New Plan of London dating from 1816 provides a better view of the area (but without the level of detail of Horwood’s map), and shows the Queen’s Gardens (what are now Buckingham Palace Gardens), with Grosvenor Place to the left of the garden with building now along the street and starting to reach into the fields behind.

Smith's new plan of London

There are some differences with Horwood’s earlier map. The above map shows a pond just below the word “Chapel” which does not appear on the more detailed Horwood map. There were several ponds in the area as Rocque’s map of 1746 show these, and the area was known to have been poorly drained.

There is an interesting detail in the above map. look to the left of the open space with the word “Chapel”, and you will see a wavy line running down from Knightsbridge. This was the River Westbourne when it still ran through what remained of the fields of west London, running down from the Serpentine in Hyde Park, which originally used the Westbourne as a water source, before the river became too polluted.

The ponds and the River Westbourne provide some clues as to the state of the area that would become Belgravia. In Old and New London (1878), Edward Walford writes:

“There was a time, and not so very distant in the lapse of ages, when much of Belgravia, and other parts of the valley bordering upon London was a ‘lagoon of the Thames’; indeed, the clayey swamp in this particular region retained so much water that no one would build there. At length, Mr Thomas Cubitt found the strata to consist of gravel and clay, of inconsiderable depth.

The clay he removed and burned into bricks, and by building upon the substratum of gravel, he converted this spot from the most unhealthy to one of the most healthy in the metropolis, in spite of the fact that the surface is but a few feet above the level of the River Thames at high water, during spring-tides”.

Thomas Cubitt started developing Belgravia in 1824 on behalf of the owner of the land, Richard Grosvenor, the 2nd Marquess of Westminster. As well as removing the clay, Harold Clunn in the Face of London (1932) states that the ground level was also made up by the use of the soil excavated to form the St Katherine Docks, however I suspect this was more towards the south of the estate around Pimlico rather than in the area of Groom Place.

The land consisted of what had been known as the Five Fields, an area of around 430 acres that stretched from roughly Hyde Park Corner down to Pimlico and Chelsea. The area was once part of the ancient Manor of Ebury, and in 1677 it came into the possession of the Grosvenor family through the marriage of Sir Thomas Grosvenor to Mary Davies who owned Ebury Farm with the associated land.

The name Ebury can still be found today with Ebury Street to the south of Belgravia, near Victoria Station, along with the nearby Ebury Square. Ebury Street follows the rough alignment of an old street called the Five Fields, and the original location of Ebury Farm (also called Avery Farm on early maps) was close to Ebury Square and Victoria Coach Station.

The name Belgravia comes from the village of Belgrave in Cheshire, which is part of one of the estates owned by the Duke of Westminster.

Returning to Groom Place, and where there is a branch leading up to Chapel Street, was, in 1985, L. Binelli, General Store:

Binelli General Stores, Groom Place

The General Stores have gone, the crooked corner door has been straightened, a window added to the first floor, and the building is now home to Muse – a restaurant run by the chef Tom Aikens:

Muse Restaurant Groom Place

A bit of detail from the 1985 photo – 1980s corner shops always seemed to have their windows stuffed with the products you could buy in the shop, and frequently a Lyons Maid ice cream sign.

Binelli store window

Walking up to Chapel Street, and we can see the original name of Groom Place:

Groom Place

Chapel Place was the name from the time the area was built up until the early 20th century (I cannot find the exact date of the name change).

Perhaps the name change was to mirror part of the name of the Horse and Groom pub, or to recall one of the jobs that would have been based here. It may have been changed to avoid confusion with another Chapel Place, between Oxford Street and Henrietta Place, which still exists today. The need to avoid confusion with other streets of the same name was a frequent justification for name changes.

Given the history of the area, there is one thing I am confused about with the Horse and Groom. Just above the door, the pub advertises “established 1698”.

Horse and Groom

This date was not on the original 1985 photo, and given that the area was built during the first decades of the 19th century, 1698 seems a considerable time before this development and was a time when the area was mainly fields.

The first reference I can find to the Horse and Groom dates from the 15th March 1852, when a rather cryptic paragraph in the Morning Advertiser states “Horse and Groom, Chapel-place, Belgrave-square. Joseph Prior applied for this licence and Mr Wire appeared in opposition – Licence refused”.

Why Joseph Prior was unsuitable for the licence to run the Horse and Groom and what caused Mr Wire to object is not recorded, but it does confirm that the Horse and Groom was a working pub in 1852, and therefore probably dates to when Chapel Place was constructed. The name of the pub refers to the main activity that took place in Chapel Place.

We can get an idea of how the area was developing from an advert for the Horse and Groom in the Morning Advertiser on the 18th June 1868:

“HORSE AND GROOM, 3 CHAPEL-PLACE, BELGRAVE-SQUARE, together with the GOODWILL AND BENEFICIAL POSSESSION. The premises are of recent elevation, combining all the requisites for carrying on the excellent full-priced trade this house is noted for. Protected, unopposed, and with the certainty of additional trade, arising from the countless mansions that are now being erected in Grosvenor-place and the vicinity, render this property comparatively speaking matchless”.

Looking down Groom Place from Chester Street:

Horse and Groom

The large building on the left in the above photo was Bryant’s Second-hand Saddlery, Harness and Horse Clothing Depot, established in the early 1830s.

The following photo shows the full building of the Horse and Groom and answers the question regarding the age of the pub.

Horse and Groom

If you look to the left of the windows on the first floor is writing stating that Shepherd Neame are Britain’s oldest brwery, and that they were established in 1698, so the sign above the door relates to the brewery, not the pub.

I can reasonably confidently date the pub to when Chapel Place was built, around the late 1820s / early 1830s.

The buildings housing the depot for all things horse related:

Groom Place

The following photo is from outside the Horse and Groom, looking back up Groom Place towards Chester Street.

Groom Place

I love looking for evidence in the built streets of London remaining from the time before they were built.

I have no evidence to confim this, but as shown in the above photo, the central part of Groom Place is in a dip, with the parts of the street going to Chapel and Chester Street rising in height.

The early maps show a pond roughly in the area of Groom Place, and perhaps when laying out the streets, the site of an old pond would not be where you want to build the expensive houses, so the smaller houses, and those occupied by stables were built on the site of the old pond.

The price of properties in Groom Place reflect the price of Belgravia in general. There is currently a two floor flat in Groom Place for sale for £2.795 Million. The covered Bentley in the following photo highlights the money you need to live in the area.

Groom Place

A final look back along Groom Place from just outside the old Binelli General Store:

Groom Place

Belgravia may not appear too interesting at first glance. Rows of similar terrace houses, foreign embassies, buildings owned offshore as investments and empty for much of the time, however look a bit closer and there are so many interesting little side streets and interesting buildings. The old Five Fields is just below the surface and it is still possible to trace some of the old roads and locations of the Five Fields and Ebury Farm which have transformed into the Belgravia we see today. There is plenty more to explore, including more mews pubs.

Thankfully the Horse and Groom is still there, although redecorated since 1985. It is a really good pub, and although great at any time of year, a visit in the winter and leaving after dark, into Groom Place can, just for a moment, recall what this part of Belgravia may have been like in the 19th century.

alondoninheritance.com

The Minories – History and Architecture

I have been to the Minories in a previous post when I explored the lost Church of Saint Trinity, or Holy Trinity in the Minories, and when I went to find the pulpit from the church which is now at All Saints’ Church, East Meon in Hampshire.

I wanted to return to explore the street, the abbey after which the street is named, and one of the most architecturally interesting buildings in the city.

The following photo is from Aldgate High Street at the northern end of the Minories, looking down the street.

The above photo shows what looks like an ordinary London street. Lined by commercial buildings, fast food stores, and the obligatory towers rising in the distance; the Minories has a far more interesting history than the above view suggests.

The following ward map from 1755 shows the Minories running down from Whitechapel, just outside the City wall.

In the above map, the area of land between the city wall and the Minories was once part of the ditch that ran alongside part of the walls. Look across the map at the top of the Minories, and running to the top left is another reminder of the ditch, the street Houndsditch, the last part of the name can be seen.

Being outside the City walls, the area may have been the site of a Roman cemetery, and in 1853 a large Roman Sarcophagus with a lead coffin was found near Trinity Church, just to the right of the street.

In the map the street is called The Minories, however today “The” has been dropped and the street name signs now name the street just Minories (I am continuing to use “the” in the post as I suspect it helps the text to flow”.

The name derives from the sisterhood of the “Sorores Minores” of the Order of St. Clare. The sisters of the order were known as Minoresses and the book “A History of the Minories, London”, published in 1922 and written by Edward Murray Tomlinson, once Vicar of Holy Trinity Minories, provides some background as to the origins of the order:

“The Order of the Sorores Minores, to which the abbey of the Minores in London belonged, was founded by St Clara of Assisi in Italy, and claimed Palm Sunday, March 18th 1212, as the date of its origin”.

The Order’s arrival in London, and establishing an abbey outside of the City walls dates back to 1293. It appears that the first members of the Order in the Minories came from another of the Order’s establishments just outside Paris.

The land occupied by the 13th century Order can be seen in the following map, enclosed by the red lines to the right of the street (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

The land supported a Church, Refectory, Guest House, Friars Hall, and along the right hand wall, a Cemetary and Gardens.

The Order received a number of endowments, and rents on properties that had come into their possession, and by 1524 they were receiving £171 per annum.

The lists of rents received in 1524 provide an interesting view of the costs of renting in different parts of the city. The following table lists the rents received from Hosyer Lane (now Hosier Lane in West Smithfield).

The majority of documentation that survives from the Order are mainly those relating to endowments, rents received, legal and religious documents. There is very little that provides any information on day to day life in the Minories. The only time we have a view of the number of sisters who were part of the Order, is at the very end of the Order, when on November 30th 1538, the Abbey buildings and land in the Minories were surrendered to Henry VIII.

The Abbess of the Order probably realised what was happening to the religious establishments in the country, and that by surrendering to the King, the members of the Order would be able to receive a pension, and it is the pension list that provides the only view of the numbers within the Order.

In 1538 there was an Abbess (Elizabeth Salvage) who would receive a pension of £40, along with 24 sisters, ranging in age from 24 to 76, and each receiving a pension of between £1 6s 8d and £3 6s 8d.

There were six lay sisters who do not appear to have received a pension – the name of one of the lay sisters was Julyan Heron the Ideote, indicative of how even religious establishments treated people who probably had learning difficulties.

It appears that the King granted the land and buildings to the Bishop of Bath and Wells, and many of the original Abbey buildings were still standing in 1797, when a large fire destroyed many of the remaining buildings of the Abbey. The last religious building on the site was the church of Holy Trinity, which closed as a church at the end of the 19th century, but the church survived as a parish hall until the Second World War when the building suffered severe bomb damage. A wall did remain until final clearance of the area in the late 1950s.

The remaining abbey buildings of the Minories in 1796:

As well as the name of the street, Minories, a side street also recalls the order. The street in the following photo is St Clare Street, after the Order of St. Clare. It runs through the land of the old abbey, and at the end of the street was the church of Holy Trinity.

The pub on the corner of the Minories and St Clare Street is The Three Lords. The current pub building dates from around 1890, however a pub with the same name has been on the site for much longer. The earliest newspaper reference I could find to The Three Lords dates to the 11th January 1819 when the Evening Mail reported on the arrest of a man for robbery. He was formerly a respectable man with carriage and servants, one of whom in 1819 kept the Three Lords and a pot from the pub was found in the room of the alleged thief.

Walk along the Minories today, and apart from the street name, there is nothing to suggest that this was once the site of the Abbey. The street is mainly lined with buildings from the first half of the 20th century.

With a mix of different architectural styles and construction materials.

Towards the southern end of the Minories is one of the most architectually fascinating buildings in the city. This is Ibex House:

Ibex House was built between 1933 and 1937 and was designed as a “Modernistic” style office block by the architects Fuller, Hall and Foulsham.

it is Grade II listed and the Historic England listing provides the following description: “Continuous horizontal window bands, with metal glazing bars. Vertical emphasis in centre of each facade in form of curved glazing (in main block) and black faience strips”

“faience” was not a word I had heard before, and the best definition I could find seems to be as a glazed ceramic. Black faience is used for the ground floor and vertical bands, with buff faience used for the horizontal bands on the floors above ground.

The ground floor, facing onto the Minories consists of the main entrance, sandwich bar and a pub, the Peacock:

The Peacock is a good example of the way developers have integrated a business that was demolished to make way for a new building, in that new building.

A pub with the same name had been at the same location since at least the mid 18th century. It was demolished to make way for the Ibex building, and a new version was built as part of the development.

An 1823 sale advert for the Peacock provides a good view of the internal facilities of the original pub, from the Morning Advertiser on the 19th May 1823:

“That old-established Free Public House and Liquor Shop, the PEACOCK, the corner of Haydon-street, Minories, in the City of London, comprising five good sleeping rooms, club room, bar, tap, kitchen, and parlour, and good cellar, held on lease for 18 1/4 years, at the low rent of £45 per annum.”

Newspaper reports that mention the Peacock include the full range of incidents that would be found at any city pub over the last couple of hundred years – thefts, the landlord being fined for allowing drunkenness, betting, sports (boxing seems to have been popular at the Peacock, etc.) however one advert shows how pubs were used as contact points, and tells the story of one individual travelling through London in 1820. From the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser on the 29th May 1820:

“WANTED, by a PERSON who is 30 years of age, and who has been upwards of three years in the West Indies, a SITUATION to go to any part Abroad, as CLERK in a Store or Warehouse, or in any way he may be able to make himself useful. Address (post paid) for A.B. to be left at the Peacock, in the Minories”.

It would be fascinating to know “A.B’s” story, did he get another job, and where he went to next.

On the southern corner of Ibex House is a rather splendid sandwich bar, all glass and chrome:

The main entrance to the building looks almost as if you are entering a cinema, rather than an office building:

During the first couple of decades, occupants of Ibex House illustrate the wide variety of different businesses that were based in a single London office block, including:

  • Shell Tankers Ltd – 1957
  • Johnston Brothers (agricultural contractors) – 1952
  • Associated Lead Manufacturers Ltd – 1950
  • Vermoutiers Ltd (producers of “Vamour”, sweet or dry Vermouth) – 1948
  • The Royal Alfred Aged Seamen’s Institution – 1948
  • Ashwood Timber Industries – 1947
  • The Air Ministry department which dealt with family allowances and RAF pay – 1940
  • Cookson’s – the Lead Paint People – 1939
  • Temple Publicity Services – 1938

The Associated Lead Manufacturers advertised “Uncle Toby’s Regiment of Lead” as their special lead alloy was used widely in the manufacture of toy soldiers. It would not be till 1966 that lead was banned as a material for the production of toys due to the damage that lead could cause to the health of a person.

The front of Ibex House is impressive, but we need to walk down the two side streets to see many of the impressive details of the building. Ibex House is designed in the shape of an H, with wide blocks facing to the Minories, and at the very rear of the building, with a slightly thinner block joining the two wider.

Walking along Haydon Street we can see the northern aspect of the building (Haydon Street was also the southern boundary of the Abbey of the Order of St Clare / the Minories).

The central glazed column contains small rooms on each floor level. There are few sharp corners on the building, mainly on the very upper floors, with curves being the predominant feature.

Looking back up towards the Minories:

The stepped and curved floors and railing on the upper floors give the impression of being on an ocean liner, rather than a city office block:

Curved walls feature across the building, including the corners of the ground floor which are tucked away at the end of the street:

Portsoken Street provides the southern boundary of the building:

Detail of the projecting canopy roof at the very top of the central, glazed column:

With a small room at each floor level:

The design detail includes curved windows in the glazed column that open on a central hinge:

Larger room at the top of the glazed column – a perfect location for an office with a view:

As well as the main entrance on the Minories, each side street also has an equally impressive central door into the building:

Ibex House is a very special building.

The view back up the Minories from near the southern end of the street:

The sisterhood of the “Sorores Minores” of the Order of St. Clare have left very little to tell us about life in their Abbey, and there are no physical remains of their buildings to be found, just the street names Minories and St Clare Street. Just one of the many religious establishments that were a major part of life in the city from the 12th century onwards.

So although we cannot see anything of the abbey, the Minories does give us the architectural splendor of Ibex House to admire as a brilliant example of 1930s design.

alondoninheritance.com

William Maitland’s History and Survey of London

“To the Right Honourable Slingsby Bethell, Lord-Mayor. The Right Worshipful the Court of Aldermen and Sheriffs, and the Worshipful the Court of Common-Council of the City of London.

The Proprietors of this voluminous and useful work, undertaken with a pure intention to preserve those monuments of antiquity, which convey a just idea of the wisdom, good governance, loyalty, religion, industry, hospitality and charity of your predecessors in the Magistracy of this City, and to perpetuate down to the latest posterity the present flourishing and prosperous State of this Metropolis, to which is arrived by your Zeal for the Public Good, steady attachment to the true Interest of your fellow Citizens, and unwearied Application in the Support of Trade, National Credit, and Works of Charity; and by Duty and Gratitude, as well as Affection, induced to make this Public Acknowledgment of the many Obligations they owe for your kind Assistance which has enabled them to finish so extensive and chargeable a Plan, and to seek your Patronage and future Recommendation”.

So reads the dedication at the start of William Maitland’s “History and Survey of London From Its Foundation to the Present Time”.

The History and Survey was first published in 1739, with an expanded version in two volumes in 1756. Maitland was a Scottish merchant and antiquary, born around 1693 and died in 1757. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, but not too much appears to be known about his life.

An obituary after his death in 1757 reads “At Montrose, in an advanced age, William Maitland Esq. F.R.S. author of the histories of London and Edinburgh, and one of the history and antiquities of Scotland, lately published. He was born at Brechin, and had lately returned home to spend the remainder of his days with his relations; who, it is said, have got by his death above £10,000”.

As well as Scotland, he appears to have lived in London for some years, including when he was working on the History and Survey of London.

I cannot find any reference as to how he created the work, however he references previous historians of London, and if his work on Scotland offers a comparison, he would send out letters to vicars, societies, organizations, etc. asking for their respective history and details, which he would compile.

The History and Survey of London provides a very readable history of the city, and a wealth of information about so many aspects of the city in the first half of the 18th century.

I was able to get hold of a copy of Maitland’s History and Survey of London some years ago. Two large volumes comprising 1392 pages of text and tables and numerous drawings and maps, so for today’s post, let me take you through one of the volumes of the History and Survey of London and explore London in the early 18th century through a fraction of the information Maitland offers.

The page photos are directly from the book. Due to the age of the book, the tight binding and condition of the pages, I have not straightened or flattened them out, so some of the photos may look a bit distorted.

Click on any of the pages for a larger view.

The first Ward map is of Aldersgate Ward, which “takes its name from that north gate of the City, and consists of Diverse Streets and Lanes, lying as well within the Gate and Wall, as without”.

The map shows Aldersgate Street as the central street with the “diverse streets and lanes” of the ward radiating out either side.

Interesting that north of the junction with Long Lane and Barbican (now Beech Street), Aldersgate Street was called Pickax Street.

To the right of the map is the wonderfully named Blowbladder Street, and just above is Foster Lane, the home of the Goldsmiths Hall:

Also in Aldersgate Street was the City of London, Lying-In Hospital for Married Women, which had been “instituted on March 30th 1750”.

The description of the hospital provides a clear view of the attitudes of the time, and who was deserving of charity. The name of the hospital indicates that it was only for Married Women, and the text further includes terms such as “the industrious poor” and that it had been set-up for the “Wives of Poor Tradesmen or others labouring under the Terrors, Pains and Hazards of Childbirth”.

We next come to Aldgate Ward, which “takes its name from the East gate of the City, called Aldgate, or anciently Ealdgate”.

The map includes the Ironmongers Hall, the Bricklayers Hall, the synagogues off Beavis Marks and in Magpye Alley, and to the south centre of the map, the East India Warehouse.

Within the dense text of the books, there are numerous tables providing statistics of life in London in the first half of the 18th century. The table below shows the number of people buried between 1704 and 1733, including where they were buried, split by male / female and those who had been christened.

As would be expected, the number of deaths changes year to year, however there is a gradually increasing trend in the total number of deaths per year which probably reflects the growing population of the city, rather than an increased rate of deaths for a given population count.

There are a wealth of statistics in the book, all begging to be entered into an Excel spreadsheet followed by a bit of graphing – perhaps one day.

Next up is Baynards Castle Ward and Farringdon Ward Within.

The map shows the location of Barnards Castle on the river to the south of the map. Farringdon Ward is Within, as it is within the old City walls as shown by the thick line to the left of the streets, along with the Fleet River, or the New Canal.

At the centre of the map is St Paul’s Cathedral, at the end of Ludgate Street (note that the present day street was divided into Ludgate Hill and Street at the location of the city gate). The book includes a print showing the west end of St Paul’s, facing onto Ludgate Street:

Very few drawings seem to get the dome of the cathedral right, and the above drawing seems to have a slightly flattened dome.

The book includes the dimensions of the cathedral, which was still relatively new at the time the book was published:

As well as the dimensions of the cathedral, there is a comparison with St Peter’s Church in Rome, where St Peter’s was apparently still measured in Roman Palm, so the table includes a conversion from Roman Palm to English Feet. The table shows that in all measurements, St Peter’s is larger than St Paul’s.

We next come to Billingsgate Ward and Bridge Ward Within.

The map shows Thames Street running the length of the ward, with the street being described as “a place of very considerable trade on account of its convenient situation near the water, the Custom House, Billingsgate and several Wharfs and Keys for the lading and unlading of Merchants Goods, and is very well built for that purpose”.

The map shows the original location of London Bridge, when Fish Street Hill and Grace Church Street were the main streets leading down from the centre of the City to the river crossing.

The text lists twenty one Keys, Wharfs and Docks that line the river between Dowgate and Tower Wards showing just how busy was this short stretch of the river.

Next up is Bishops Gate Ward Within and Without, showing that the ward covered the area both within and without the old city walls.

Bishops Gate Ward was another ward that took its name from one of the City gates.

The text for each ward describes the streets and buildings of the ward, as well as administrative details covering how the ward was run. For example, for Bishops Gate Ward “There are to watch at Bishopsgate, and the several stands in the Ward, every Night, a Constable, the Beadle, and eighty watchmen, both within and without”.

The ward also had “An Alderman, two deputies, one without the Gate, another within, six Common-Council men, seven Constables, seven Scavengers, thirteen for the Wardmote Inquest, and a Beadle. it is taxed at thirteen Pounds”.

Many of these adminstrative arrangements had not changed for many centuries.

Bread Street Ward and Cordwainers Ward were two relatively small wards in the centre of the City:

Bread Street Ward “takes its name from the principal street therein, called Bread Street, which, in old Time, was the Bread-market”,

Cordwainers Ward takes its name from “the occupation of the principal inhabitants, who were Cordwainers, or Shoemakers, Curriers and other Workers of Leather”.

A large fold out map covers Broad Street and Cornhill Wards:

The text gives the source of the Broad Street name as being a reference to the street before the Great Fire as “there being few before the Fire of London of such a Breadth within the Walls” Cornhill Ward derives its name from Cornhill Street which took its name from the corn market which was “kept there in ancient times”.

In the lower part of the map, above Corn Hill we can see the Royal Exchange, and to the upper left of the Royal Exchange is the Bank of England, then a relatively small building. To the left of the Bank is St Christopher’s Church. This old church would be demolished in 1781 to make way for the extension of the Bank of England along Threadneedle Street as the bank expands to take up the large site it occupies today.

The map of Cheap Ward, includes in the corners, four of the important buildings within the ward – the Guildhall Chapel, the Grocers Hall, the Blackwell Hall and the church of St Mildred in the Poultry.

The text explains that the name Cheap comes from the Saxon word Chepe, meaning a market which was held in this area of the City. Markets and shops selling provisions have long occupied this area of the City, and on the left boundary of the ward, just above Cheap is shown Honey Lane Market. This market is described “as well served every Week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with provisions. The Place being taken up by this Market is spacious, being in length, from East to West 193 feet, and from North to South, 97 feet. In the middle is a large and square Market-house standing on pillars with rooms over it, and a Bell Tower in the middle. There are in the Market 135 standing stalls for Butchers, with Racks to shelter them from the injury of the weather, and also several stalls for Fruiterers”.

Running vertically along the map is Queen Street, then King’s Street, which run up to the Guild Hall. The book includes a print of the Guild Hall as it appeared in the middle of the 18th century:

The next map covers Coleman Street and Bassishaw Wards:

The map shows the streets of Coleman Street Ward to the south of London Wall, and on the other side of the wall we see “The lower quarters of Moor Fields” and the Bethlehem Hospital.

The Moor gate leads into Fore Street and also to the intriguingly named “Road to Doghouse Barr”.

To the left of the above map is Cripplegate Ward, and it is to Cripplegate Ward and Cripplegate Parish without the Freedom that we come to next:

The map shows the ward within the well defined old City wall, with the street London Wall following its original alignment before post war reconstruction diverted the street south and removed the relationship between street and wall.

The bastions we can still see today are along the west of the ward, and outside the ward to the north is the church of St Giles Cripplegate and with further north, the streets that today are buried under the Barbican and Golden Lane estates.

Churches are a feature of all the ward maps, and the book include long lists of all the religious establishments in London in the middle of the 18th century. The shortest list is that covering the location of Quaker meeting places, there being a total number of 12 within London at the time.

The maps also show the main Halls of the most important Guilds and Company’s of the City, the Barbers Hall is shown up against the wall to the left of the Cripplegate map. The text of the book provides details of all the Guilds, Company’s and Fellowships of the City and their order of precedence. There are a number of interesting institutions lower down in the order of precedence.

In last week’s post on St John’s Lane, the role of Carman was listed as the profession of a number of those living in the street. In the book, and at number 89, is the Fellowship of Carmen, constituted as a Fellowship of the City in the reign of Henry VIII.

The text includes all the rules and regulations for each company, and one of the key roles was in regulating how many could practice the trade for which the company was responsible. This effectively established a monopoly for each trade and restricted competition by limiting the number within each trade.

For the Carmen, no more than four hundred and twenty Cars or Carts would “be allowed to work within the City of London, and the Liberties thereof”, with a forty shilling fine for exceeding this limit.

There were some very small Companies, including at number 82, the Longbow String Makers:

The Longbow String Makers were a “Company by prescription, and not by Charter; therefore may be deemed an adulterine Guild”.

An adulterine Guild was a set of traders or a profession that acted as a Guild, but without a Charter, and had to pay an annual fine for the privilege of acting as a Guild.

And in at number 91 were the Watermen (sounds more like a music chart). This profession has featured many times in my posts on the Thames and the River Stairs.

The Watermen were charged with overseeing the watermen’s trade between Gravesend and Windsor, and that those who worked as watermen followed a strict set of rules.

One of the rules was a Table of Rates, listing what a Waterman could charge between specific places on the river. This was important for customers as when you wanted a Waterman to transport you along the river, you would have wanted the assurance of knowing the cost, and that any of the Watermen trading at a specific boarding point should be charging the same rate.

Next comes Farringdon Ward Without:

This is a large ward, and runs up to Temple Bar to the west (an image of which is in the top right corner). We have also moved into legal London with Lincoln’s Inn to upper left. In the centre of the map is the River Fleet, although now the Fleet Ditch below Fleet Street and covered by the Fleet Market between Fleet Street and Holbourn Bridge.

To the upper right of the map is Smithfield, and just to the right of Smithfield are “The Sheep Penns”.

The book includes details from the Smithfield Clerk of the Market’s Account for the Year 1725 which shows the high numbers of animals sold at the market each day.

The tables are too large to include in this post, however a couple of extracts provide a sense of the numbers passing through the market in 1725:

History and Survey of London
History and Survey of London

The numbers in the bottom row of the above table show the total number of Sheep and Lambs sold during 104 market days at Smithfield Market in 1725. A considerable number, when you also consider that these animals had been driven from their farm or fields, and had come through the streets north of Smithfield to arrive at the market, which, as the upper table illustrates was also selling Bulls, Oxen and Cows.

Limestreet Ward was a small ward, taking its name from Lime Street, which referred to “a Place in ancient Times where Lime was either made or sold in Public Market”.

History and Survey of London

Limestreet Ward is the location of the area now known as Leadenhall Market. The early 18th century version of the market can be seen by the references to Flesh, Fish and Herb Markets to the right of Leaden Hall Street, with the original Leaden Hall being seen to the south of the street.

Portsoken Ward was outside the City walls.

History and Survey of London

A feature of all the ward maps is that at the bottom of the map is a dedication to an alderman of the ward. For Portsoken “this plan is most humbly inscribed to Sr. William Calvert Kt. an Alderman of Portsoken Ward in 1755”.

The description of the ward also mentions Whitechapel as the principle street to the City from the east, which was “a spacious street for entrance into the City Eastward. It is a great thorough-fare, being the Essex Road, and well resorted to, which occasions it to be well inhabited, and accommodated with good inns for the Reception of Travelers, Horses, Coaches and Wagons. Here on the south side of the street is a Hay Market three times a week”.

In the mid 18th century, the affluence of the City was growing based on the trade that was brought to the City along the River Thames. The river today is quiet and it is hard to imagine that the river was the hub of London business for so many centuries, and was extremely busy. The following print shows the Customs House on the river:

History and Survey of London

To get an idea of the scale of trade on the river, the book includes several pages of a list of “the ships that belonged to the City of London in the Year 1732”. The following is the first page of the table:

History and Survey of London

In total, in 1732, there were 1,417 ships, with a total of 178,557 tons, crewed by 21,797 men recorded as belonging to the City of London. It was these ships that transported the trade on which the City grew rich.

Many of those ships could have unloaded their cargo at one of the wharfs that line the river in the second of the wards in the following map of Walbrook and Dowgate Wards.

History and Survey of London

In the description of Dowgate Ward, Thames Street is described as “a great thoroughfare for carts to several wharfs, which renders it a place of considerable trade, and to be well inhabited”.

Much of that trade was run by various trading companies headquartered in the City of London. The book details all these companies, one of which was the Russia Company:

History and Survey of London

And perhaps the most well known of the trading companies – the East India Company:

History and Survey of London

The description of the East india Company provides an indication of the value of these trading companies and the wealth they created.

In 1698 the East India Company was worth Three Million, Three Hundred Thousand Pounds – a considerable sum of money at the end of the 17th century, and in the early years of the 18th century, was generating a dividend of 10%, falling to 8% for investors.

Another source of funds, part of which contributed to the City, including the costs of rebuilding St Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire was the Coal Duty.

A Coal-meters Office was based in Church Alley, St Dunstan’s Hill, and in the office the records of all ships entering the Port of London with coals were recorded:

History and Survey of London

Maitland’s Survey of London included areas on the edge of, or were part of the wider London. the following print is of the Charter House Hospital as it appeared in the early 18th century:

History and Survey of London

Map showing the City of Westminster and Duchy of Lancaster:

History and Survey of London

To the left of the map, Tottenham Court Road still ran through fields, Chelsea Water Works are to the right of the map, and along the river are the names of many of the Thames Stairs, all now lost under the 19th century Embankment.

The view of the first Westminster Bridge, with the two towers of Westminster Abbey on the right edge of the print:

History and Survey of London

And to the east of the city, the Parish Church of St John’s at Wapping:

History and Survey of London

The Parish church of St Paul’s at Shadwell:

History and Survey of London

William Maitland provides a very readable history and survey of London. The book really brings to life how the city was administered and operated. The wealth of the city and the trade that generated this wealth. All manner of statistics and lists cover those living in the city, key buildings and organisations.

As written in the dedication at the start of the book, it really does describe “to the latest posterity the present flourishing and prosperous State of this Metropolis

The History and Survey of London is also available online and can be found at here.

alondoninheritance.com

St John’s Lane – First World War Bombing, Passing Alley and the Census

For this week’s post, I am back in Clerkenwell, an area I have explored in a number of recent posts, and today I will take a walk along St John’s Lane, a street that runs from St John’s Street, up to St John’s Gate.

Although St John’s Lane is relatively short, there is so much that the street can tell us about the history of the area, events across London, and the people who have passed through London.

St John’s Lane is a very old street, dating back to the 12th century. The street originally ran through the outer precinct of the Priory of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, leading from a gate at the southern end, to St John’s Gate at the northern end, which formed the gateway to the inner precinct. The following map is repeated from my earlier post on the Order of St John, and shows St John’s Lane between the two blue rectangles, which represent the gatehouses into the outer and inner precincts (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

St John's Lane

St John’s Lane today, photographed from the south, looking up towards St John’s Gate just beyond the trees at the end of the street.

St John's Lane

St John’s Lane today is mainly lined by late 19th and early 20th century buildings, along with a number of post war buildings, mainly on the western side of the street which suffered a higher degree of bomb damage during the last war.

During the time that St John’s Lane was part of the outer precinct of the priory, the street was lined by buildings associated with the priory, including a number of large houses with gardens to the rear, owned by important members of the Order of St John.

The Clerkenwell News of the 16th December 1863 included a very imaginative and colourful description of St John’s Lane in an article on the history of the street “What a glorious picture does imagination, aided by the indubitable facts of history, present of the splendid pageants which, in the days of chivalry, passed along this highway, their pomp and splendor offtimes swelled by the gorgeous retinue of some kingly potentate or prince of royal blood. What an array have we of glittering lances, blazoned shields, and fluttering pennons – heralds in their gaudy tabards – knights, the flower of England’s nobility, mounted on stately charges, richly caparisoned. Obsequious esquires, and the fair dames and daughters of nobles, grace by their presence the magnificent cortege, pleased to follow their lords and loves to the tournament in the neighbouring Smithfield”.

After the priory was taken by Henry VIII during the dissolution in the 1540s, many of the buildings and much of the land was sold off, however evidence of the large houses that once lined the street could still be seen in the 17th century.

The following extract from William Morgan’s Survey of London from 1682 shows St John’s Lane in the centre of the map, and to the left of the upper part of the street is the house and grounds of the “Earl of Berkleys”.

St John's Lane

By the end of the 19th century, the street was a mix of different type and use of buildings. There were terrace houses, a pub, a Friends Meeting House, a Smithy, along with a mix of industrial buildings and workshops supporting the trades that had moved into Clerkenwell.

Only a few of these buildings can be seen today. The Friends Meeting House was destroyed during the war, and in 1992 the following building was completed on the site.

St John's Lane

This is Watchmaker Court, an office building with a name that recalls one of the crafts / industries that was based in Clerkenwell from the late 17th to the early 20th centuries.

A clock stands out from the front of the building, telling the time in Roman numerals.

St John's Lane

There are eight plaques along the front of the building, each naming a significant clock maker in chronological order, starting with Dan Parkes:

St John's Lane

One of those named is Christopher Pinchbeck, who lived in Albion Place, one of the streets that runs off St John’s Lane to the west. Pinchbeck invented an alloy of copper and zinc which very nearly resembled gold.

St John's Lane

On the northern side of Watchmaker Court is the building that was once the pub, the Old Baptist’s Head:

St John's Lane

The building that we see today is a rebuild of the pub dating from the 1890s, however the pub had been on the site for many years, originally being part of the house of Sir Thomas Forster, who died here in 1612.

There seem to be various post war dates for when the pub closed, however by 1961 the building had been converted to a warehouse.

There is nothing really remarkable about the old pub building, in what is now a relatively quiet street. The pub has played a part in the life of so many who have passed through London over the centuries.

From the same article of the Clerkenwell News that I quoted above, is a comment that the Old Baptist’s Head was a halt for prisoners on their way to Newgate. The British Museum archive includes a 1780 print of prisoners stopping at the pub  (the two following prints are ©Trustees of the British Museum, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license):

St John's Lane

The New Prison was the Clerkenwell Prison, or the Middlesex House of Detention that I wrote about in a previous post on Sans Walk, a Fenian Outrage and the Edge of London. The Old Baptist’s Head, or just the Baptist’s Head as it was in 1780 was about half way between the prison and Newgate, so I assume the prisoners were allowed a stop for refreshments.

A very different stop at the Old Baptist’s Head was recorded in the District News on Friday the 29th June, 1900. There is an article by a St John Ambulance volunteer who was on his way from Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire to the Transvaal in South Africa.

He arrived in London at King’s Cross and then made his way to the Old Baptist’s Head where accommodation had been arranged by the St John Ambulance (who had their headquarters at the nearby St John’s Gate). The article tells of an early morning, 5 a.m. exploration of London, before heading to Aldershot via Waterloo for training, then to Tilbury to catch a boat to South Africa.

Whilst buildings such as the old pub now serve a different purpose, it is fascinating how many have passed by the Old Baptist’s Head; from prisoners to volunteers heading from Yorkshire to South Africa. There must be millions of such individual stories across London.

A relic of the time when the Old Baptist’s Head was a pub can today be seen in St John’s Gate. A fire place originally belonging to the pub is now in the Old Chancery room of St John’s Gate. The fireplace includes the coat of arms of Sir Thomas Forster, so is presumably from his house prior to part being converted to the pub.

The following print shows the fireplace in the Old Baptist’s Head:

St John's Lane

The following photo is of number 29 St John’s Lane. An early 1880s warehouse built for the wholesale stationers Fenner Appleton & Co.

St John's Lane

Although now converted to offices and flats, the building retains the large doors on floors one to three that would have been used to move goods between the street and the warehouse floors.

On the front of the building is a superb clock:

St John's Lane

On one face of the clock is an outline of the world, and on the other side is the name E. Higgs Air Agency Ltd.

St John's Lane

I am always rather cautious with relics such as this clock as to whether they are actually genuine.

There does not seem to be much information available on the company. They were on the delegate list to a World Air Transport Conference held at the Royal Lancaster Hotel on the 8th and 9th of May 1974, but despite leaving a rather good clock, they do not seem to have left much else in Clerkenwell.

There is today a company called Higgs International Logistics that provides logistics for the publishing industry, and given Clerkenwell’s history with the printing industry, perhaps the company now in Purfleet, Essex is the latest incarnation of the business in St John’s Lane.

If it is, I am pleased that they left their clock.

At number 28 is a large warehouse and offices dating from 1901:

St John's Lane

This building is part of a tragic period of London’s history, as hinted at by the plaque on the front of the building.

St John's Lane

Although minimal compared with the Second World War, London was bombed during the First World War.

Early attacks during the war were by Zeppelin airships (see my post on Queen Square), and during the later years of the war, the Germans switched to the use of aircraft to bomb London.

The first fleet of German aircraft attacked London on Wednesday, the 13th of June 1917. Sporadic raids continued during the following months, and night raids commenced in September.

On the night of the 18th December 1917, a fleet of sixteen aircraft set of from Belgium, and thirteen “Gotha” bombers and a single “R-plane or Giant” bomber reached London, where they dropped their bombs across the wider city causing considerable damage, including in St John’s Lane.

On the route from Belgium and return via London, the planes dropped 2475kg of high explosive on London, 800kg on Ramsgate, 450kg on Margate and 400kg on Harwich. One of the Gotha bombers was shot down by a Sopwith Camel flying from an airfield at Hainault in Essex. The bomber crashed in the sea off Folkestone.

It is remarkable that aircraft of 1917 had the range and lifting capabilities to carry heavy loads of high explosive bombs from Belgium to London and across Essex and Kent.

The Gotha was a twin engined heavy bomber that entered service in August 1917. It had a range of about 520 miles and a maximum speed of 87 mph. The Gotha was capable of carrying up to 14, 25kg high explosive bombs. For the crew, it was unpressurised and there was no heating, so it must have been incredibly uncomfortable for the crew on long night flights from Belgium to London and back.

The Gotha Heavy Bomber of the type that attacked London on the night of the 18th December 1917:

St John's Lane
GERMAN AIRCRAFT OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 67219) Gotha G.V heavy bomber. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205234223

A single R plane was also involved in the raid on the night of the 18th December 1917. The R plane, also known as the Giant, was a four engined heavy bomber, with a maximum bomb load of 4,400 lbs of high explosive bombs and a range of 500 miles.

The R plane had two engines on each wing, one in front of the other. The front engine had a forward facing propeller that pulled the aircraft, the rear engine had a rear facing propeller and pushed the aircraft. Remarkably, the engines were capable of being serviced in flight and a mechanic was stationed in each of the engine pods during the flight.

The R Plane, or Giant bomber of the type that attacked London:

St John's Lane

(image source https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zeppelin-Staaken_R.VI_photo1.jpg):

A map in the Imperial War Museum archive provides an overview of the Gotha bomber attacks on London, Kent and Essex during the later years of the First World War and illustrates the considerable numbers of bombs dropped on London, casualty numbers and the number of Gotha bombers lost.

St John's Lane
THE GERMAN AIR FORCE IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 73542A) Map of the locations of German Gotha raids on Britain and casualties on both sides. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205360173

The attacks on London during the First World War, though relatively small in number, were an indication of what was to come in just over 20 years time.

The building next to number 28 has an interesting ground floor frontage to the street, part of which provides access to an alley.

St John's Lane

Behind this building, in space between St John’s Lane and St John’s Street was a large area for the stabling of horses. The large arch on the left of the building was originally an access tunnel to the stabling area.

The smaller arch to the right provides access to Passing Alley, an alley that allows pedestrian access through to St John’s Street.

St John's Lane

Passing Alley gives the impression of being one of London’s ancient alleys, however in London terms, it is relatively recent. The alley was originally around 40 feet to the north of its current location, however late 19th century development, which included the building that now provides access to the alley, required the shift of the alley to the south.

In the following map, I have outlined Passing Alley with a red oval. Look to the left of the alley, across St John’s Lane, and Passing Alley is to the south of Briset Street.

St John's Lane

In the following extract from a 1755 parish map, I have circled Passing Alley with an orange oval. In this extract, the alley is in its original medieval position and was a continuation of Briset Street. The map also seems to imply that it was a slightly wider street than the narrow alley we see today.

St John's Lane

The name of the alley seems to have changed in the late 18th century. In the key for the above parish map the alley was called Pising Alley, and in Rocque’s 1746 map it had the name Pissing Alley.

I cannot find any firm evidence for the source of this earlier name, however it may be down to the location of cesspits in the area.

St John's Lane

Alan Stapleton’s 1924 book “London’s Alley, Byways and Courts” records that the alley was blocked for many months during the Great War due to the bomb dropped on the adjacent building on the night of the 18th December 1917, and that some hundredweights of bricks fell into the alley, killing an unfortunate man who happened to be passing through.

Walking through the alley today, and it is still lined by high brick buildings and walls, and one can imagine the impact of so many bricks falling into such a narrow alley.

St John's Lane

The way the alley curves means that as you enter from either entrance, you do not get a view of the full length of the alley and what is around the corner.

As a complete diversion, I have mentioned a number of times the pleasure of finding things that previous owners have left in second hand books. My copy of Alan Stapleton’s book on London’s alleys contains a bookmark that was issued by Air France, detailing their flights from London. There is no date on the bookmark, but at the time, a flight from London to Paris would have cost £6, 15 shillings.

St John's Lane

The following photo shows the St John’s Street end of the alley:

St John's Lane

And the entrance to Passing Alley in St John’s Street:

St John's Lane

If you are reading this post on the day of publication (Sunday 21st March 2021), then it is census day, the day every ten years when every household is expected to complete a census return providing details of those living at each address on the day.

A census has been carried out every ten years since 1801. The amount of information collected changes each census and 1841 was the first census when the names of all the individuals at an address were collected.

The census has been conducted every ten years apart from 1941, when the impact of the war meant that there other priorities. The 1931 census data for England and Wales was destroyed by fire – an early example of why backing up data is so important, although using the technology of the time with thousands of paper returns, this would have been difficult.

There was a register taken in 1939, not a full census, the data was needed to create ID cards and ration cards as part of the measures brought in during the war.

Availability of census data is goverened by the Census Act 1920, and the later 1991 Census (Confidentiality) Act. These acts restrict the disclosure of personal information from census returns until 100 years have elapsed, meaning that the 1911 census is the latest to be fully available. The 1921 census will be published online in 2022.

Given that the day of post publication is census day, I thought I would take a look at who was living in St John’s Lane in 1911, when the census was taken on the 2nd of April.

By 1911, St John’s Lane was home to a number of warehouses and business premises (as can be seen by gaps in the street numbering), however there were still 125 people living in the street, as detailed in the following extract from the 1911 census covering all the entries for St John’s Lane:

St John's Lane
St John's Lane
St John's Lane

If you have seen the Government’s current advertising for the 2021 census, the emphasis is on the importance of the census to planning services such as transport, education and healthcare, however they also have an incredible historical importance as they provide a snap shot of the population at a point in time.

The 1911 census tells us the names of those living in St John’s Lane, their age, profession and their place of birth. We can therefore see the type of occupancy for the houses in the street (for example, in number 34, all the residents are single and recorded as Boarders).

We can get an idea of mobility by looking at their birth place. Many of those living in St John’s Street seem to have stayed relatively local. Out of the 125 residents, 82 are recorded as being born in London, of which 34 were born in Clerkenwell.

Only one family came from outside the United Kingdom. The Valli family at number 33 came from Italy, and we can get an idea of when they moved as their 18 year old daughter was born in Italy, but their 15 year old son had been born in London. The children also had some modern sounding jobs. The son was an apprentice to a Civil Engineer, and the daughter’s job shows the jobs that new technologies were bring to London as she had “Employment in the Telephone”.

The census also shows the tradition of people from Wales being associated with London’s dairy industry. At number three lived John Thomas Howells with his wife Margaret, both from Wales, with John being listed as a Dairy Man. They also had living with them two others from Wales listed as Servants.

A surprisingly high number were single, with 78 out of 125 being recorded as single, either as an adult, or because they were a son of daughter, widow or widower.

Displaying census data graphically helps with understanding what St John’s Lane was like in 1911. The following graph shows the age distribution, and highlights that the largest age group in the street was aged between 10 and 19.

St John's Lane

The graph also shows the rapid decline in ages after the age of 59, with only three residents in their seventies. Of these three, two were married, Emma and John Cottrell at number four. Emma was 75 and had come from the small village of Frettenham in Norfolk. John was born in the City of London and at age 72 was still recorded as working as a locksmith.

So, as you complete the 2021 census, you may well be helping those who want to understand the history, demographics, mobility and professions of your street when the data is made public in 2122. Will your current job sound as strange to those in 2122 as an Ostrich Feather Curler sounds today?

alondoninheritance.com